Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms
Also known as FMLA, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 is a law requiring businesses to give employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave every year for health and family reasons.
There are a variety of reasons an employee is able to take unpaid leave under this act, including the birth of a child, care of a family member with a serious health condition, or care of a military service member in the family who has a serious health condition.
Though this type of leave is not paid, health care benefits must continue and the job is protected.
The Family and Medical Leave Act was instituted on February 5, 1993.
The bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on this day, and the law took effect starting August 5, 1993. Various amendments were added to the law in 2008, 2010, and 2015 to clarify the definition of family members covered by the act.
According to the 50/75 rule, only companies with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of the company’s main work site must offer FMLA coverage to employees.
If an employee is not eligible for FMLA but misses work, their employer may legally terminate them from their position. Employees are only eligible for FMLA if they:
Work for an FMLA-covered employer
Wave worked for their employer for at least 12 months (does not have to be consecutive)
Have worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer before taking the leave
Under federal law, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 only applies to immediate family, including parents, spouses, and children.
In 2008, amendments expanded FMLA coverage to next of kin and adult children. These rights are applicable to those in a same-sex marriage or common-law marriage.
Some states have expanded their definition of the immediate family to include grandparents, civil union partners, parents-in-law, and more.
FMLA allows an employee to leave their job for up to 12 weeks.
The leave can be taken in one 12-week period all at once, or be taken as intermittent leave, under special circumstances.
Intermittent leave is allowed in a reduced amount with the birth of a child, or if an employee needs to leave for regular treatment or therapy during work hours.
An employee can be laid off while on FMLA leave.
Under the law, FMLA gives an employee the right to return to their job after taking leave. But the job is not protected if the employee were to have been fired before or after leave anyway.
Because this can be a sticky situation, an employer should be careful to provide sound evidence that the layoff would have happened whether or not the employee took FMLA leave.
An employer can never fire someone for taking FMLA leave, but their job may be terminated after they take the leave, in certain situations. Employers need to be aware of FMLA interference and retaliation claims.
If the termination was in the works well before the employee took leave, it may be safe to proceed. Here are some circumstances where it’s safe to fire an employee after FMLA leave:
The employee did not comply with orders from supervisors
The employee had performance issues before taking leave
The employee was frequently late or absent from work
There is sound evidence that the termination was decided before the employee took FMLA leave
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