PEO Horizon: A Publication of PEO7.com
 
An Employer’s Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act
 
Prior to 1993, employer-leave policies did not uniformly permit employees to balance family obligations and work life. Nor were employees secure in their positions if they had to miss work due to serious illness. The nonprofit National Partnership for Women and Families drafted the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which Congress passed to, “balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families, to promote the stability and economic security of families, and to promote national interests in preserving family integrity.” 29 U.S.C. 2601(b)(1).
 
What is the FMLA?
 
The FMLA allows an employee to take a leave of absence to care for a sick family member, to care for a new child (including by birth, adoption or foster care) or because of a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform his job. Leave under the FMLA is unpaid unless the employee takes available paid time-off. 
 
To be eligible, your company must have employed your workers for at least 12 months, and they must have at least 1250 hours of service during this period. However, check your jurisdiction for any eligibility variations under the state’s analog to the FMLA. For example, under the California Family Rights Act, a “serious health condition” does not include disabilities due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.
 
To whom does the FMLA apply?
 
The FMLA applies to all employers who employ 50 or more employees each working day during each of 20 or more calendar work weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.  This includes federal and state government employers, no matter how many employees.  See Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs, 538 U.S. 721 (2003). Therefore, your employees are ineligible if you have fewer than 50 workers located within 75 miles of the workplace.
 
How much time can my employees take?
 
Eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of leave of absence during any 12-month period. 29 U.S.C. § 2612. This leave is subject to notice restrictions. Generally, the employee must provide you no less than 30 days advance notice if the need for leave is foreseeable, or ASAP if 30 days notice is impossible. Leave may also be taken intermittently or on a reduced leave schedule when medically necessary. 29 U.S.C. § 2612(b)(1). 
 
What are my rights under the FMLA?
 
Where leave is taken due to an employee’s serious health condition or his/her relative, you have the discretion to require the employee to provide a medical certification, which includes the expected length of leave time and, “the appropriate medical facts within the knowledge of the health care provider regarding the condition.” 29 U.S.C. § 2613. You may also require that returning employees provide a return-to-work certification. However, the FMLA protects employee privacy by prohibiting the employer from requiring disclosure of any additional information.
 
You also have the responsibility of designating leave as FMLA leave, paid or unpaid. Notice of the designation must be given to the employee.  Oral notice is acceptable as long as it is confirmed in writing. 

Consult your PEO for any questions or concerns you have about employees taking leaves of absence. Go to www.PEO7.com for more information.