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
Updated to reflect a US Department of Labor opinion letter concerning rest breaks taken as intermittent leave.
Updated to reflect leave-related pregnancy accommodation requirements, effective April 1, 2018.
Updated to reflect the forthcoming Austin paid sick leave law.
On this podcast, Littler Mendelson employment attorney Casey Kurtz examines the growing trend of paid leave laws, plus key leave-related questions he receives from employers.
Updated to include the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, effective February 11, 2018.
Updated to reflect amendments to the Seattle Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance, effective January 14, 2018.
Updated to reflect the New Parent Leave Act, amendments to the California temporary disability and paid family leave benefits law, and applicability of San Francisco's Paid Parental Leave Ordinance to smaller employers, effective January 1, 2018.
Updated to include the state paid family leave benefits law, effective January 1, 2018.
Updated to reflect applicability of the St. Paul Earned Sick and Safe Time Ordinance to smaller employers, effective January 1, 2018.
HR and legal consideration for complying with and administering FMLA leave. Guidance and support on following all of the FMLA rules and regulations.