The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is one of the laws designed to give workers certain protections if it becomes necessary for them to take time away from their jobs. However, because FMLA leave does come with certain rules, it can be confusing for the average person to know how to file for leave properly, especially amongst the spread of COVID-19. Employers can take advantage of mistakes if you are not careful, which can leave you out in the cold.
Not Everyone Qualifies For FMLA
The FMLA grants employees who qualify up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. Employees qualify if they meet the requirements and they or a family member are experiencing a particular medical or familial event, also called a qualifying condition. Some qualifying conditions include:
- The birth of a child
- The care of a spouse, parent, or child that has a “serious health condition”
- One’s own serious health condition that makes it impossible for them to perform the essential functions of their job.
In order to be eligible, you must have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the leave you wish to take, and that work must have been at a location where your employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles. It is important to keep in mind that while you have to have worked for your employer for 12 months, those 12 months are not required to be consecutive, in case you needed to take breaks for obligations like serving in the military.
In Case Of Illness
With recent events, there has been an uptick in FMLA requests related to illness. If you or a family member have tested positive for COVID-19, you should be aware the the Family Medical Leave Act does allow you to take leave to care for a family member. While no official guidance exists as to whether COVID-19 and its complications are considered a “serious health condition,” it is entirely reasonable to treat it as such. If you have FMLA leave accrued, you may choose to take it during this time, and your employer may not retaliate against you for doing so.
That said, FMLA does not protect employees if they wish to take leave for preventative reasons (to lessen their chances of contracting coronavirus), nor for taking care of healthy children if schools are cancelled and no child care is available. The Department of Labor generally advises that each employer should evaluate their sick leave policy in these uncertain and unusual times. However, it is crucial to remember that your employer’s policies may not fall foul of federal antidiscrimination laws, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Americans With Disabilities Act. If you suspect that you have been disciplined unfairly, consulting an attorney is a good next move.
Call A South Carolina Employment Discrimination Attorney
Current events have many people concerned about their jobs, but also about their families. FMLA leave may be a helpful option during this crisis, but your employer has a duty to deal with you appropriately, according to the statute. If you have questions or concerns about FMLA leave and COVID-19 related health conditions, contacting an experienced employment discrimination attorney at the firm of Hitchcock & Potts is a good idea. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has experience in FMLA cases and will work hard to protect your interests. Contact our offices today.