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Understanding the Family Medical Leave Act

Often workers confuse the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) with a benefit that provides them payment when they need to be out of work. It is important to understand that FMLA is not about paid leave, it’s about job protection in the event that you need to take time off from work.

Are all employer’s required to offer FMLA?

No. There are certain guidelines for an employer to be required to offer FMLA. The employer must have a minimum of 50 employees that work a minimum of 20 weeks during the year. The law includes government agencies and private sector employers. Employers that violate the provisions of FMLA can be subject to a fine for each incident.

Can I take FMLA for any reason?

No. Only serious medical injuries or illnesses can qualify. FMLA entitlement reasons include:

- The birth of an employee's baby.
- Adoption into the employee’s family.
- To take care of a family member with a serious illness including - spouse, child or parent.
- In the event of an injury of a active duty family member, follow the Family Medical Leave Act Military Leave Entitlements.

How much leave can I take?

Qualifying employees are entitled up to 12 months of unpaid leave within a year (12 months). The leave can be taken all at once or intermittently. This includes reduced work hours and varying time off.

Wait you said “unpaid leave.” Do I not get paid for taking FMLA?

No. FMLA is for job protection, not for payment. An employer may allow you to use any accrued leave for payment.

Do I have to provide proof of the illness or injury?

Yes. An employer can request proof from a qualifying medical professional.

Will I lose my health insurance?

No, If your employer offered health insurance and you were enrolled in their program, they must continue to offer it. However, you will still be required to pay your employee share whether or not you are earning wages. You need to make arrangements for payment of the employee share. If you can not pay, they can cancel.

What happens when my FMLA is over?

You need to return to work. Your employer must provide either the same job or an equivalent. If it’s an equivalent position, the pay and benefits must be the same.

Who monitors FMLA?

The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor investigates FMLA complaints.

Often times situations such as a major illness or injury occurs that prevents us from being able to fulfill our work obligations. The Family Medical Leave Act was designed to protect workers from losing their jobs. Unfortunately many employees do not understand the basic FMLA rules and regulations.

The rules identified in this article are not to be used in the place of contacting your Human Resources Department for information specifically applicable to your company. If you need to take FMLA - contact your HR department.

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