Prior to the passage of the FMLA in 1993, American workers had few options when they needed extra time off from work due to their own serious medical conditions and accidents – or those of immediate family members. In fact, workers often had to use up all their vacation and sick leave benefits, if entitled to any, and then worry about their job security if they needed more time off. (However, eligible women could seek the special help offered by the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act).
Fortunately, the Family Medical Leave Act is still helping many 21stcentury workers address critical family caregiving duties and remains one of the signature pieces of legislation from the Clinton era.
Here’s a brief overview of specific provisions of the act that can help your qualified workers.
What basic opportunities does the FMLA offer qualified employees?
If a worker meets the minimum qualifications referenced below, it’s possible to take up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave during a calendar year to take care of seriously ill family members, new children or the individual’s own major medical condition.
In 2008, the Family Medical Leave Act was updated so that qualified workers could also take time off work to take care of immediate family members who became very ill (or were seriously injured) while serving in the military.
The FMLA guarantees that qualified workers can take the extended time off work without having to worry about losing their jobs, their seniority or their employer-provided health care insurance.
Which types of employees are qualified to use the FMLA?
General questions often raised about the FMLA by employers and employees
Question 1: Can the leave time requested be intermittent during a calendar year?
Answer 1: Yes, if all the time that’s taken is counted toward the maximum amount of time off
allowed (12 weeks).
Question 2: What government agency oversees and administers the FMLA for all federal
employees – as well as all state and local government workers and private
Answer 2: The U. S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. This is noted in Fact
Sheet #77B entitled, “Protection for Individuals Under the FMLA.”
Question 3: Are all workers qualified to take time off from their jobs under the FMLA entitled
to receive pay while away from work?
Answer 3: No. The FMLA doesn’t require employers to pay qualified employees while they’re
taking this type of leave. However, it’s up to your employer to let you make a claim
for regular vacation time, sick leave or annual time off.
Question 4: Can a qualified worker ever be granted more than 12 weeks of paid or unpaid
FMLA leave in one year?
Answer 4: An exception only exists for qualified family caregivers of wounded
servicemembers. They’re allowed to take up to 26 weeks off from their jobs in a
given calendar year.
Question 5: Can a qualified worker request more than 12 weeks off under the FMLA to take care
of a newborn – or a newly adopted child?
Answer 5: In general, the answer is “No.” However, individual states can pass their own
versions of the FMLA and provide somewhat different benefits. To date, the Texas
Workforce Commission says that Texas has not passed such legislation.
Although the Family Medical Leave Act is a straightforward piece of legislation, it’s been updated with new rules and regulations and interpreted by the courts. Therefore, it’s usually wise for employers to ask their Houston employment lawyer for help if they have any specific questions about properly handling FMLA issues.
Please feel free to contact Murray Lobb so we can help explain any specific aspects of the FMLA to you as you provide its benefits to your employees. We’re always available to research any questions you may have.
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