What You Need to Know About the Family & Medical Leave Act

In case you’re dealing with a medical situation and want to know what the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is all about, listen up. Unfortunately, life happens and when it does, we need to rely on provisions like the FMLA to become informed.

For starters, it was implemented in 1993 and says that employees are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from an employer during a 12-month period. This leave could be due to your own serious medical condition or due to caring for an immediate family member with a serious ailment.

As for what defines “immediate family member,” well that pertains to parents, a spouse and children. State labor laws vary so you should check your own state’s labor laws. For instance, some states have expanded the definition to encompass a domestic partner, parent-in-law, sibling and even a grandparent.

In addition, as pointed out by a post on U.S. News & World Report, this act may also be used as extended parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child. 

Now that we’re clear on what it is, it should be noted that every employee may not be eligible. In order to be protected under the FMLA, you must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months before requesting the leave. Plus, you must have clocked at least 1,250 hours within that time period. Furthermore, your employer must be eligible as well and must have at least 50 employees working within 75 miles of its office.

Employers vary so it’s important to check with HR to find out if your company requires you to use paid leave before using leave within the act. Some people may prefer to use accrued personal time for the simple fact that you get paid for that time.

During the actual time of FMLA, it’s not surprising for an employer to ask for proof of the serious health condition. Sure, it may seem a bit cold and insensitive but an employer is entitled to ask for it. Your boss may request proof when you request the leave or within five business days. After that time elapses, you have at least 15 calendar days to obtain proof after being asked for it. (Get this — your employer may go directly to your health care provider for information but they’re not allowed to ask for information beyond basic information found in the certification form.)

Lastly, when you return to your job at the end of the FMLA, don’t be surprised if it’s not the same exact job as when you left. Per the Department of Labor Web site, the FMLA indicates, “An employee must be restored to the employee’s original job, or to an equivalent job with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.”

Essentially, if you left the company for leave as a manager you would return from leave as a manager but it may be to a different group or function.