Family and Medical Leave Act
The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that entitles an employee to twelve weeks of leave per year if they or their immediate family member has a qualifying illness or injury. Leave can be taken consecutively (meaning, all at once) or intermittently (meaning, as needed). It is important to remember that FMLA leave only provides a right to return to work following leave. It does not provide wages or a salary while an employee is on leave, so it is important to ask your employer about all of its available leave programs and benefits, and then avail yourself of those benefits. Often, employers have additional benefits and programs, such as short term disability insurance, in the event an employee is stricken with illness or injury.
Do I qualify?
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, your company must employ over fifty (50) people. In addition to this fifty employee threshold, you (the employee) must work for at least 1,250 hours over the previous twelve (12) months. That’s a little over one hundred (100) hours per month. If both criteria are met, you will be entitled to leave under the FMLA Act.
Further, in order to apply for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, you (or your immediate family member) must have a “serious medical condition.” A serious medical condition can be any injury or illness that requires hospitalization or incapacitates you or an immediate family member for more than three (3) days. Expect that your doctor will need to provide medical documentation supporting your serious medical condition.
How do I exercise this right?
ASK! One of the biggest mistakes that employees make is failing to ask questions about the kinds of leave available in the event of a medical illness or injury. Another big mistake employees make is not being clear with their employer about the need for leave. If your employer has over fifty (50) employees, there is a strong likelihood that the company has a human resources department or human resources professional employed to handle your benefit questions. Always notify your employer in the event you or a loved one has a serious illness or injury and if possible, do so in writing. If your employer asks you to complete an application or submit medical documentation, do so as soon as possible. Unfortunately, unsavory or dishonest employers will use even technical mistakes as an excuse to deny you leave. Make sure you are conscientious and diligent in completing applications and following up with your doctors to obtain your medical records.
And here is the best part about the Family and Medical Leave Act: your employer is prohibited from retaliating against you for exercising your rights under the act.
What if my employer denies my leave?
Call the Law Offices of Eric A. Shore immediately. If you qualify for FMLA leave, it is as near to an absolute right as there exists with respect to employment law. There are very few legal justifications an employer could have with respect to denial of FMLA leave.
Graham Baird, Esq.