March 19, 2019

The ABC’s of FMLA: A Preamble

In the employee benefit regulation world, the Family & Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA” or “Act”) takes a back seat to ERISA, perhaps because it is commonly slotted as “employment law” subject to States’ interpretations. However, let’s pause a moment and have a look at this federally-regulated employee benefit.  To learn more about the FMLA, please join Compliancedashboard® for our upcoming webinar on March 26th at 1:00 PM EDT: The ABCs of FMLA: Spelling Out the Basics of the Family & Medical Leave Act.

The FMLA exists to provide eligible employees of a covered employer unpaid, job-protected leave to care for themselves or family members for a prescribed period of time. The Act is intended to benefit both employees and employers.[1] It boils down to this: stability in the workforce is strengthened when employees aren’t forced to choose between their job and caring for a dependent family member’s medical condition (or their own serious medical condition).

Though spelled out in 29 CFR § 825.100 and administered by the Department of Labor (“DOL”) via numerous forms and procedures—make no mistake—the FMLA and its applicability in any one case is highly fact dependent.  Therefore, this blog post provides the ABCs of FMLA as a general overview for those looking for a research launchpad.[2]  If you want the 411 on FMLA, please join us next week for additional information.

Applicability: leave is generally available when the following conditions[3] are met:

  • The employer qualifies if they employ 50 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year;
  • An eligible employee is one who has been employed for 12 months prior to the requested leave and has been employed for at least 1,250 hours of service with such employer during the previous 12-month period; and
  • The employee works at a site with at least 50 employees within 75 miles.

Benefits: an eligible employee of a covered employer is entitled to the following:

  • Job-protected, unpaid leave (or substitute appropriate paid leave) for a total of 12 workweeks in any 12 months;
  • Maintenance of health benefits while on leave as if they had continued to work; and
  • A right to return to the same position or an equivalent position with equivalent pay, benefits, and working conditions at the conclusion of the leave.

Certification: FMLA also protects the rights of the employer, often documented via various forms. An employer has a right to:

  • Advance notice from the employee;
  • Require an employee submit certification to substantiate the leave;
  • Require that an employee present a certification of fitness to return to work when the absence was caused by the employee’s serious health condition; and
  • Delay restoring the employee to employment without such certificate relating to the health condition which caused the employee’s absence.[4]

[1] 29 CFR § 825.101

[2] Please consult legal counsel for specific State and Federal guidance on the applicability of FMLA in any one circumstance.

[3] 29 CFR § 825.102

[4] Pursuant to a uniformly applied policy

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