Family Medical Leave Act

Employees who understand how to use fmla enjoy a more productive and satisfying workplace experience. Hello, my name is Yancey and I'm an employee, which means I work for someone else for a living.

Since that's the case I understand that I should learn all I can about my basic employee rights including the Family Medical Leave Act.

Many job seekers and employees don't understand what fmla means and the rights they are entitled to.

What exactly is FMLA? President William Jefferson Clinton signed a law in 1993 passed by Congress to assist people who had to balance work with the requirements of family.

Like so many families my wife and I both have to work to “make ends meet”. The increase in single family homes over the last 20 or so years has also contributed greatly to the need for some assistance.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, FMLA means;

Covered employers must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:

  • for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee;
  • for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;
  • to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition;
  • or to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

The purpose of learning how to use FMLA is to help eligible employees maintain a degree of job security while dealing with family issues. When single and two parent families need to care for a family member or the birth of a child they are often put in the position of choosing that care or keeping a job. This can obviously be a stressful situation for the employee and the employer.

how to use fmla

Family Medical Leave

The Family Medical Leave Act is one of my favorite employment laws because it provides genuine legitimate help to employees and their families in time of need! The FMLA ACT also requires employers to preserve your original or similar position at the same level of compensation when you return from leave.

As mentioned earlier, eligible employees are entitled to family leave under the act. But what does "eligible" mean?

  • The employer must be covered under the act. That means your company has to have at least 50 employees.
  • You have to have worked for your company for at least 12 months and worked at least 1250 hours in the previous 12 months.
  • Employees of all public agencies whether local, state, federal governments and all public or private schools are eligible for FMLA leave.

For us employees that sounds pretty good, unfortunately here's the down side.

  • If the employee worked less than 25 hours a week for 50 weeks the company is not required to provide FMLA benefits for the employee.
  • If your boss employs less than 50 employees within 75 miles of where you work, the company does not have to provide Family Medical Leave Act benefits for you.
  • If your employer can provide info that you not being at work hurts the business you can get unpaid leave, but your the employer may not be required to hold your job. This is especially true if you are in the top 10 percent in compensation.
  • I know several married couples who work for the same company. This means they can only get 12 weeks of combined total FMLA leave, not 12 weeks each. An exception according to the DOL, ("Note, too, that many State pregnancy disability laws specify a period of disability either before or after the birth of a child; such periods would also be considered FMLA leave for a serious health condition of the mother, and would not be subject to the combined limit.")
  • While on FMLA leave, companies don’t have to allow you to accumulate leave time for vacations or time counting toward seniority or length of service. This could affect your salary raises and other employee benefits.

Okay, we've learned who an "eligible" employee is under FMLA guidelines. But what does "serious health condition" mean?

how to use fmla

Fmla Regulations

The Department of Labor through the Family Medical Leave Act defines "serious health condition" as an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves:

  • any period of incapacity or treatment connected with inpatient care (i.e., an overnight stay) in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility; or
  • a period of incapacity requiring absence of more than three calendar days from work, school, or other regular daily activities that also involves continuing treatment by (or under the supervision of) a health care provider; or
  • any period of incapacity due to pregnancy, or for prenatal care; or
  • any period of incapacity (or treatment therefore) due to a chronic serious health condition (e.g., asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, etc.); or
  • a period of incapacity that is permanent or long-term due to a condition for which treatment may not be effective (e.g., Alzheimer's, stroke, terminal diseases, etc.); or,
  • any absences to receive multiple treatments (including any period of recovery therefrom) by, or on referral by, a health care provider for a condition that likely would result in incapacity of more than three consecutive days if left untreated (e.g., chemotherapy, physical therapy, dialysis, etc.).

Boy, that was a mouthful! However, I'm glad the FMLA is so detailed in the medical issues that employees and their families routinely face. Employees learning how to use fmla also need to understanding what the words "treatment" and "continuing treatment" mean.

If I go to get my teeth cleaned that does not qualify as "treatment". Likewise, taking a dietary supplement like alfalfa everyday to lower blood levels of cholesterol and glucose probably doesn't qualify as "continuing treatment". In part because there is no conclusive medical evidence that it works.

how to use fmla

Fmla Law

Employer FMLA compliance isn't inclusive of all family members. Did you notice the FMLA regulation doesn't include in-laws or grandparents in its definition of "immediate family member".

I guess many employees wouldn't be too upset about the exclusion of in laws, but I would like to see grandparents included in the FMLA.

Grandparents are playing a greater role in the lives of raising future employees as the family unit continues to change.

However, great news from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on this issue! In the case of Martin v. Brevard County Public Schools, the higher court overturned the lower district courts denial of FMLA rights to a grandparent. The 11th Circuit Court ruled that the grandparent stood in what's called "loco parentis" (in the place of the parent). I believe this decision sets a precedent for the FMLA law to be expanded to include grandparents. The 11th Circuit Court has jurisdiction over Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

Once you determine you are eligible and need to take FMLA leave, you are required to give your boss 30 days advance notice if its foreseeable. For example, on June 1st your doctor schedules you for hip replacement surgery on July 7th, 35 days later with 6 weeks of rehab and therapy. That would be "foreseeable" under FMLA law. If you fell and broke your hip on June 1st and needed immediate surgery and 8 weeks of rehabilitation that wouldn't be foreseeable but should still be covered under FMLA.

In learning how to use FMLA, employees should know that failing to provide the employer a foreseeable 30 day notice gives the employer the right to delay the start of the leave. Once you have given proper notice, your employer has to provide you with the appropriate FMLA forms within two business days.

Unfortunately, there is FMLA abuse so companies know a lot about how to use FMLA to their advantage. Your boss can require you to get a medical certification from a health care provider to justify the need to take FMLA leave. Your company can also obligate you to get a second or third medical opinion for the need to take FMLA leave.

Since the third health care providers opinion is final and binding, both the employer and employee must agree to it. Your employer has the right to require these extra certifications and any follow-up re certification if it pays for them. The employee is not required to pay for extra certifications. Our employers must give us at least 15 calendar days to get the medical certification.

how to use fmla

Fmla Laws

I know your are dying to ask this question, How does FMLA define "health care provider"? Well I'm glad you asked. According to the U.S. Department of Labor;

Health care providers who may provide certification of a serious health condition include:

  • doctors of medicine or osteopathy authorized to practice medicine or surgery (as appropriate) by the State in which the doctor practices;
  • podiatrists, dentists, clinical psychologists, optometrists, and chiropractors (limited to treatment consisting of manual manipulation of the spine to correct a subluxation as demonstrated by X-ray to exist) authorized to practice in the State and performing within the scope of their practice under State law;
  • nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives, and clinical social workers authorized to practice under State law and performing within the scope of their practice as defined under State law;
  • Christian Science practitioners listed with the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts;
  • any health care provider recognized by the employer or the employer's group health plan's benefits manager; and,
  • a health care provider listed above who practices in a country other than the United States and who is authorized to practice under the laws of that country.

Boy...that's another mouth full! As I said earlier, I like this law because it truly provides help for working families dealing with necessary and unexpected medical issues. Employers qualified under FMLA must also maintain group health insurance, for an employee taking FMLA leave. The terms and conditions of the health insurance cannot be changed and the employer must continue to pay its share of the premiums.

The employee taking FMLA leave will need to continue to pay his or her share of medical insurance premiums. As I mentioned earlier when you return from family medical leave your boss must restore you to the same or similar position at the same compensation. Those wanting to learn how to use FMLA should also be aware of one important exception. In specific situations if giving your job back causes "substantial and grievous economic injury" to your employers' business it may be able to withhold your job.

The employee under FMLA guidelines may take the leave on a continuous basis and on what's called "intermittent" or on again off again basis. The employee can also work a reduced schedule under FMLA. Follow this link to learn about how intermittent fmla and a reduced work schedule can affect you.

how to use fmla

Follow this link to learn what every employee must know about how FMLA questions and answers affect your employment. Learning how to use FMLA is important for every employee. Since there is so much about learning how to use FMLA every employee should know I have added a second answers to FMLA questions page.

That means you should also be familiar with FMLA paperwork. It is illegal for your employer to willfully deny or interfere with or restrain your FMLA rights. How to use FMLA also means knowing that your employer cannot discriminate against or fire anyone seeking their FMLA rights. There's also more to learn about intermittent fmla leave answers to fmla intermittent leave questions.

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In the ever changing workplace environment it is critical for every employee to understand and learn how to use FMLA correctly. If you believe your company has or is violating your FMLA rights there are steps you can take. Every career seeker and employee MUST know how to use FMLA.

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The most complete information on FMLA YOUR BOSS may not want you to know is The Essential Guide to Family & Medical Leave.

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