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Frequently Asked Questions About FMLA Leave

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that grants up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to workers that otherwise meet the criteria. However, the law does not cover everyone, and there is always confusion about what benefits a qualifying worker is actually entitled to. If you think you may need to take some time off work, it is important that you do your research so that you do not wind up with an unpleasant surprise when your leave begins.

What types of leave does the FMLA allow?

The FMLA permits 12 weeks of leave, though it is almost always unpaid. The FMLA only requires unpaid leave, but employees can use accrued paid leave. It also grants certain extra leave for family members of military servicemembers. In order to take leave, you must work for a covered employer—namely, any public agency or private-sector business that employs 50 or more employees for at least 20 work weeks in the current or previous calendar year.

Who is eligible for FMLA leave?

In order to qualify for FMLA leave, you must have worked at least 1,250 hours in the calendar year preceding the leave. You must also have worked for that employer for at least 12 months cumulatively. You must also work at a location where your employer has 50 or more employees within 75 miles.

Are there specific times when I can use FMLA leave?

The regulations specify that leave can be taken for one or more listed reasons. The most commonly used reasons include but are not limited to:

  • The birth of a child (and bonding with the new child)
  • Caring for an immediate family member with a serious health condition
  • Being unable to work due to one’s own serious health condition

What defines a ‘serious health condition’?

A condition significant enough to be called ‘serious’ for FMLA purposes usually entails at least an overnight in a hospital. Or it may be a condition that is chronic enough to incapacitate you (or your family member) for at least three consecutive days, or at least twice a year. Pregnancy and the appointments surrounding it is one specific condition listed in the law, as very often it is considered serious almost by default.

Does my job have to be held open for me during my leave?

While an employer does not have to hold your specific position open for you while you are on FMLA, they are required to return you to the “same or equivalent” position when you go back to work. “Same or equivalent” is a decidedly loaded term, and employers often run afoul of this regulation. This is because sometimes there simply is not an equivalent position—i.e., if an employee’s job is downsized or eliminated. However, if an employer makes a good-faith effort, most of the time this is sufficient, unless malice is apparent.

Get Legal Help Today For Your Questions

If you have filed for FMLA and been unfairly denied, or if you have not been placed into a “same or equivalent” position upon your return, speaking with an attorney well-versed in FMLA claims is a good idea. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has a long history of handling these types of cases, along with many other types of employment discrimination or mistreatment. Contact Hitchcock & Potts today to schedule an appointment.

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