The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a confusing body of law. Even lawyers and human resource professionals are confused as to the intricacies of the law. As a result, most laypeople will need some help understanding their rights.
Here is an overview of the FMLA, which grants leaves of absence to eligible employees.
One of the most common misconceptions is that all employers must provide FMLA leave. In fact, most small- to mid-sized companies do not have to provide such leave. Only private employers with 50 or more employees are covered by the federal law.
Even if your employer is covered, it is not automatic that you are eligible for FMLA leave. Generally, to be eligible, an employee must work for the employer for at least 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours during the preceding 12 months.
Qualifying Reasons for FMLA Leave
You can't take FMLA for just any reason. Eligible employees can only use the leave for one or more of the following reasons:
- The birth of a child or placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care;
- To care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent who has a serious health condition;
- For a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his job; or
- For any qualifying exigency arising related to military duty.
Notice of Leave
If you meet all the other requirements, you may be eligible for leave. However, to take leave, you still must give proper notice. This can include complying with the employer's usual and customary requirements for requesting leave and providing enough information for the employer to determine that the FMLA applies.
If the reason for leave is due to a medical reason, the employer may require certification of the health condition from a health care provider.
Job Restoration and Health Benefits
While FMLA leave is unpaid, the main benefits are that you are entitled to your original job back when you return and employers are required to continue group health insurance coverage during FMLA leave
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