HR Support on FMLA (Family Medical Leave)

Editor's Note: Be sure you know your state's family medical leave requirements.

Melissa S. BurdorfOverview: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed to help employees achieve a balance between work and family responsibilities, by giving eligible employees a reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons, and to promote equal employment opportunity for men and women.

FMLA leave can be an administrative challenge for employers because employees may take leave in a single block of consecutive days or on an intermittent or reduced-schedule basis. In addition, the FMLA has strict rules in many areas, such as:

  • Employer notice obligations;
  • Employee eligibility:
  • Qualifying reasons for FMLA leave;
  • Certification process;
  • Designating leave;
  • Calculating FMLA time;
  • Employer obligations while an employee is on leave; and
  • Reinstatement.

When an employee requests, takes or returns from FMLA leave, the employer must also be sure to comply with numerous other overlapping laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and workers' compensation.

In addition, several states have laws that provide family and medical leave rights to employees working for employers with fewer employees than what is required by the FMLA, offer a longer period of leave beyond the FMLA's 12 weeks, provide leave for conditions and circumstances not covered by the FMLA or even offer certain levels of wage replacement in some circumstances.

When considering any issues relating to the FMLA, employers must check to see if their state law also applies.

Trends: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is targeting employers that have policies that require termination of employees who previously qualified for leave under the FMLA but whose medical conditions prevent them from returning to work when they exhaust their 12-week leave entitlement.

The EEOC contends that employers must engage in the ADA's interactive process with employees in such situations in order to determine whether or not the employee has a disability and may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation (including extended leave) that would enable the employee to perform his or her essential job functions.

Therefore, an employer should not include language in its FMLA policy that indicates that employees who fail to return from FMLA leave will be subject to automatic termination.

Many states' equivalent leave laws expand who is considered a covered family member for family medical leave purposes. For example, several states include domestic partners, grandparents, siblings and aunts and uncles. With the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) struck down and many states legalizing same-sex marriage, employers in those states must understand that employees may be eligible for FMLA leave to care for their same-sex spouse.

Author: Melissa S. Burdorf, JD, Legal Editor

Latest items in FMLA

  • FMLA Same-Sex Spouse Benefits Rule on Hold

    Date:
    27 March 2015
    Type:
    News

    A federal district court has granted a request by the State of Texas to temporarily block implementation of a final Department of Labor (DOL) regulation requiring Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits to be extended to same-sex couples legally married in a state that recognizes such marriages, even if they live in a state that does not recognize such marriages. The final regulation would have gone into effect today if not for the stay granted by the court.

  • Pregnancy Accommodation Handbook Statement: New Jersey

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    New Jersey employers seeking to inform employees, including supervisors, that employees may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation for known limitations relating to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, including recovery from childbirth should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Family Leave Handbook Statement: New Jersey

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    New Jersey employers that employ 50 or more employees, including employees outside of New Jersey, for each working day during each of 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Family and Medical Leave Handbook Statement: Washington

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Washington employers with 50 or more employees for at least 20 workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year that seek to inform employees about their rights and obligations under the Washington Family and Medical Leave Act and to demonstrate compliance with the law should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • FMLA: Wyoming

    Type:
    Employment Law Manual

    In-depth review of the spectrum of Wyoming employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to FMLA.

  • FMLA: Wisconsin

    Type:
    Employment Law Manual

    In-depth review of the spectrum of Wisconsin employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to FMLA.

  • FMLA: West Virginia

    Type:
    Employment Law Manual

    In-depth review of the spectrum of West Virginia employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to FMLA.

  • FMLA: Virginia

    Type:
    Employment Law Manual

    In-depth review of the spectrum of Virginia employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to FMLA.

  • FMLA: Vermont

    Type:
    Employment Law Manual

    In-depth review of the spectrum of Vermont employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to FMLA.

  • FMLA: Utah

    Type:
    Employment Law Manual

    In-depth review of the spectrum of Utah employment law requirements HR must follow in respect to FMLA.