FMLA is the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 that allows qualified employees to take unpaid but job-protected leave for any medical or health reasons. Covered employers must provide this leave to their employees, which they can take for 12 weeks.
Although the leave is unpaid, employees will still have their group health insurance coverage and job protection on the same conditions if they had not taken the leave.
Not all employees are eligible for FMLA because it mainly depends on their employer coverage. If an employer is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, only then can employees avail of unpaid leave.
The FMLA applies to employers only if:
Private employers that have fifty or more than fifty employees.
All public organizations, such as federal, state, and local government organizations, are covered by FMLA, regardless of their number of employees.
All private and public elementary and secondary educational institutions are qualified for FMLA even if they don’t have 50 employees.
What FMLA Benefits Do Eligible Employees Get?
FMLA-eligible employees can take unpaid leave for family health and medical causes. They will be able to take the following benefits:
1. Leave of 12 Workweeks in a Year
Employees will be able to take FMLA if:
They give birth and have to care for a newborn baby within that time frame.
They adopt or foster a child and have to care for the child’s needs for a year of the placement.
They have sick children, spouses, or parents who are going through a severe illness and must need care.
They are going through severe health issues and cannot perform important, regular work that is essential for their job.
They have covered military family members who need assistance or going through an existing medical condition due to being on active duty.
2. Leave of 26 Workweeks in a Year
Leave for 26 weeks is rare in the workplace, but if an employee qualifies for the following reasons, they can get it.
If an employee’s spouse, child, parent, or other family member is a service member with serious illness or injury, an employee can get 26 workweeks of unpaid leave. This type of leave is usually called “military caregiver leave.”
Why are the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 Important?
It is difficult for employees to choose between their family and work. Hence, the FMLA allows employees to balance their work and give attention to their family members’ medical needs.
Moreover, the FMLA has some goals in its written bill that needs to be ensured.
To maintain family integrity while balancing the workplace requirements with those of the home.
To support the stability and financial safety of families and to support national interests while doing so.
To allow employees the right to take a fair amount of time off for family and medical reasons, childbirth, or adoption.
To take care of a parent, spouse, or kid suffering from a severe illness.
To fulfill the goals in a way that respects employers' legal interests.
In order to achieve these mentioned goals in a way that complies with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, it is essential to make sure that leave is commonly accessible for valid medical reasons (including maternity-related disability) and clear family reasons on a gender-neutral basis.
According to the above amendment, to promote the objective of providing women and men with equal job opportunities.
What Rules Does an Employee Need to follow to File for the FMLA?
Employees need to follow some rules when applying for FMLA leave. First, eligible employees need to notify their employers about the need for FMLA leave before 30 days. If they do not know the specific date of leave before 30 days, they must inform employers about it and report it to them soon.
For an urgent FMLA application, the employee can notify their employers even a day before the leave or as soon as possible.
What Documents Does an Employee Need to Get the FMLA Leave?
The FMLA leave can only be given to employees with sufficient valid documents. Employees must submit a Written Medical Certification electronically or on paper to their employers to verify claimed medical issues.
The Written Medical Certification must have a certified physician's contact details, the necessity for the leave, and the required length and time of leave.
Moreover, employers can also ask for additional information regarding the employee’s family member’s illness and treatment schedules. However, employees are not bound to provide diagnosis reports and other unnecessary documents.
Can Employers Dismiss Employees on FMLA Leave or After?
Under U.S. Labor Laws, employers cannot fire employees for taking FMLA leave. However, they can dismiss employees while on FMLA leave if the dismissal was already in process before the leave.
Employers should have concrete reasons for terminating an employee, and it should provide information that the termination would have taken place even if the employee did not take the FMLA leave.
Otherwise, employers can be taken to court by the dismissed employee, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Here are safe reasons for an employer to dismiss their employee while or after the FMLA leave:
Employee failed to comply with supervisor’s orders.
The employee had low productivity and performance from the beginning.
The employee did not maintain workplace regulations.
The employee occasionally did not attend the workplace on time.
Other fair and valid evidence of the termination being processed before the FMLA leave.
Can Actions be Taken Regarding Unlawful Dismissal of an Employee?
If an employee is dismissed unlawfully or an employer does something unlawful according to the FMLA, employees have the right to file a civil lawsuit against the offending employer.
Employees can also file a complaint to the U.S. Department of Labor. Then the department will investigate the matter and resolve the complaint issue.