Life is full of uncertainties and you never know when you might need to provide care for a sick loved one, whether it is your spouse, your child or your parent. The last thing you need is to worry about is whether or not you can leave work to provide the care your family member needs, and that’s where the Family and Medical Leave Act comes in.
The FMLA provides guidelines that cover how employees can take unpaid time off of work without the fear of losing the job due to frequent absences, either at once or over a period of time.
Who Does the FMLA Apply To?
The FMLA applies to employees who work for an employer that is covered by the law. In general, private employers with over 50 employees are covered under the FMLA, and if your company does not have 50 employees then you should check with Human Resources to determine if your company participates or not.
All federal, state and local government agency employees are covered by the FMLA, along with elementary and secondary school employees no matter the size of the school or agency staff.
If your company is not covered by the FMLA, then you will not be able to take advantage of the benefits and protections that the law offers.
Who Is Eligible for FMLA?
Once you have determined that your employer is covered by the FMLA, then you need to determine your individual eligibility.
There are three main criteria for FMLA eligibility:
- You have worked for your employer for at least 12 months
- You have worked a minimum of 1250 hours in the last 12 months
- There are 50 or more employees within 75 miles of your job’s location
If you meet all of these criteria, then you are eligible for the FMLA.
It is important to note that flight attendants and members of the flight crew have special requirements to determine eligibility under the FMLA. Make sure you check the special FMLA guidelines to see if you qualify.
What Leave Is Covered?
The FMLA provides for up to 12 weeks of covered leave in a 12-month period. You have the option of taking those 12 weeks at one time or over a period of time.
Coverage can be used to care for a sick family member (child, parent or spouse) or for your own medical needs.
This is incredibly important when faced with medical diagnoses like cancer where you may be called upon to transport a loved one to multiple appointments and treatments over an extended period of time.
Here are some of the ways the FMLA can help you:
- When you or a family member are facing an overnight stay in the hospital
- When an illness or condition keeps you or a family member out of school or work for more than three consecutive days and require ongoing medical treatment over an extended period of time
- Chronic conditions requiring treatment at least twice a year
- Pregnancy (including extended bed rest, morning sickness and appointments)
The FMLA also provides for military leave, particularly with regard to designated military deployments.
It will provide for up to 26 weeks of FMLA leave to care for an injured family member who is a covered service member.
Additionally, the FMLA will also provide leave for men and women following the birth of a child, in addition to maternity leave.
This leave must be taken within a year of the child’s birth, or in the case of adoption within a year of the child’s placement. This leave must be taken at once, unless the employee agrees to return to work on a part-time schedule.
When to Contact a Lawyer
If you believe that you qualify for the FMLA but your employer is denying you the time off that you need, you should consider hiring an employment lawyer to help ensure that your rights are upheld.
The FMLA requires that you provide 30 days notice when there is a foreseeable medical event, such as a surgery, a birth or medical treatment that you can plan for.
However, you might not have that kind of foresight in the event of a medical emergency or a sudden diagnosis that requires immediate hospitalization or treatments. Your employer cannot require more notice from you, especially in cases where you can’t provide it.
Similarly, if your employer questions your eligibility for FMLA based on the number of hours worked, or if you are discouraged from taking leave, then you might need to have an employment lawyer advocating on your behalf.