Taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a right that employees have if they meet certain criteria. However, there are numerous misconceptions that persist about what FMLA actually is and what it is not. It is critical to understand the truth about FMLA leave, so you do not assume that you are entitled to something you are not. We hope this post on FMLA facts vs myths helps to clear things up.
Myth: Your employer must approve an FMLA request.
Fact: Your employer may approve a request for FMLA leave if you meet the relevant criteria. All public and private schools, public agencies and companies with 51 or more employees must comply with the FMLA.
However, the individual criteria are specific: in order to qualify under the Act, an employee must have (1) worked for their employer for at least 12 months; (2) at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months; and (3) they must work at a location where the company employs 51 or more people within a 75 mile radius. If an employee does not qualify, the request will likely be denied, regardless of the necessity.
Myth: You do not have to use any of your paid leave or sick leave while on FMLA, if granted.
Fact: Your employer has the right to make you use paid leave (including vacation and sick leave) if you have it, either as the leave you take on FMLA, or before they will grant FMLA leave to begin with. They do, however, have to specify whether that will be necessary or not within 5 days of your taking FMLA. If your employer does not specify, you may have grounds to contest the ruling.
Myth: You are entitled to 12 weeks of FMLA leave per calendar year.
Fact: You are allowed 12 weeks of FMLA leave per 12-month period. If that goes over parts of two calendar years, it still means that 12 months must pass in between leave periods.
Myth: The only documentation my employer will need is a doctor’s note.
Fact: In reality, you need to present far more, given the nature of FMLA leave. FMLA is granted for very specific reasons—namely, to take care of a very ill spouse, child or parent, to give birth, or to deal with a “serious health condition” that makes the employee unable to handle their job.
Especially in the case of another person’s illness, you would need to provide your employer with documentation showing that person’s illness, as well as your relationship. In other words, you would need to show that you have a close enough relationship where you would be able to qualify for FMLA leave to nurse them.
Call An Experienced Employment Attorney
FMLA leave is a useful tool for people who need time to take care of themselves or family members, but it has a very specific set of criteria, and the rules must be obeyed. If they are not, your leave request may wind up in jeopardy. A knowledgeable employment lawyer can help you to understand FMLA facts and regulations, especially if you suspect your request was denied for discriminatory reasons.
Attorney A. Christopher Potts has experience with these types of cases, and is happy to try and help you with yours. Contact Hitchcock & Potts today to schedule an appointment.