Overview: 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:
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.
Author: Melissa S. Burdorf, JD, Legal Editor
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a $161,000 jury award to an Alabama narcotics officer whose employer refused to accommodate her need to pump breast milk following her maternity leave. The jury had found the employer illegally retaliated against the officer under both the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).
The White House plans to nominate Cheryl Stanton to be Administrator of the US Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division. Currently executive director of the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, Stanton also has worked as a labor and employment attorney in both the public and private sectors.
Updated to reflect Emeryville paid sick leave final regulations and FAQs.
Updated to reflect Minneapolis paid sick leave final rules, effective July 1, 2017.
Updated to include the forthcoming Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
Updated to include forthcoming amendments to the Oregon Sick Time Law.
Updated to incorporate the state pregnancy accommodation law, effective July 23, 2017, and under review in relation to the forthcoming state paid family leave benefits law.
Updated to include an amendment to the Hawaii Family Leave Law regarding covered family members, effective July 10, 2017.
HR and legal consideration for complying with and administering FMLA leave. Guidance and support on following all of the FMLA rules and regulations.