Thursday, May 13, 2010

Navigating FMLA






FMLA.  What is it?  According to http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/benefits-leave/fmla.htm...

"The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave.

FMLA is designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons. It also seeks to accommodate the legitimate interests of employers and promote equal employment opportunity for men and women.

FMLA applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. These employers must provide an eligible employee with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for any of the following reasons:

v  for the birth and care of the newborn child of an employee;
v  for placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care;
v  to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
v  to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

Employees are eligible for leave if they have worked for their employer at least 12 months, at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles. Whether an employee has worked the minimum 1,250 hours of service is determined according to FLSA principles for determining compensable hours or work.

Time taken off work due to pregnancy complications can be counted against the 12 weeks of family and medical leave.
A final rule effective on January 16, 2009, updates the FMLA regulations to implement new military family leave entitlements enacted under the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008.

Special rules apply to employees of local education agencies. The Department of Labor administers FMLA; however, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) administers FMLA for most federal employees." 

There are many rules and regulations which are complex and confusing especially with the changes that went into effect last year. (see http://www.dol.gov/federalregister/PdfDisplay.aspx?DocId=21763 for a detailed list of the changes.)

Basically, if you see a doctor at least twice a year and get prescription medications, you need to have an FMLA document on file. Your employer will ask you to fill out some FMLA paperwork...be sure to be prepared to pay your doctor for completing the forms...some ask for fees...anywhere from $10 to $100.  It's ridiculous....but it's the only way.  You have 15 days from notifying your employer to turn in the medical certification.  In my case, my FMLA is considered intermittent and will cover me throughout the calendar year.  I have three on file with my employer.  One from my neurologist, my immunologist and my rheumatologist...it's been a long road to get here.

Your employer cannot penalize you in any way for missing work.  If they do, then they violate the FMLA and can be heavily penalized.  Sometimes, employers will even try to find legitimate ways to fire you so they can bypass the FMLA protection.

I am not an expert, but my husband is an attorney and he pushes me to know my rights under the law.  If there is ever a question about things, contact the Department of Labor and they will steer you to your local Wages Division for assistance.

It's scary to have to do this, but the new guidelines and regulations require that FMLA be filed or you can be denied the right to use your own sick time or vacation time to cover your absence.  And...it could impact your job.


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