Everyone knows that work is a huge part of our lives, but sometimes there is an event in our personal lives that overshadows all aspects of our professional lives. Usually you need time off to deal with a medical condition, your own or that of or a family member. Sometimes it can be a non-medical family event, such as the adoption of a child, or moving elderly parents into an assisted living facility, that requires personal time away from work. That’s when the the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is so valuable, but, there are several things you should – or must – take into consideration.
The FMLA allows a qualified employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. But first, you must be working for a qualified employer, one who has at least 50 employees within a 75 miles radius of where you work. (They don’t all have to work at your location, so long as there are at least 50 employees working at all locations within 75 miles.) Next, you must be qualified – you must have worked at the company for at least a year, and you must have worked at least 1,250 hours within the 12 months preceding the leave of absence.(That is not a full-time standard. Part-time averaging at least 24 to 25 hours a week will do.) If all three of these requirements are met, you may qualify for FMLA leave.
But you must follow the rules. If the leave is medically related, as most are, the healthcare professional must complete an FMLA medical certification for your employer. Obviously, if you need leave for yourself, your doctor must state why you need leave, when and how long. If you need leave to care for a sick family member the doctor’s certification must state why you need time to care for the family member, when and how long. If you need FMLA leave for other than a medical reason you must still give your employer appropriate documentation.
In many cases you will need a to take 12 weeks of FMLA leave at once, e.g., three weeks in a hospital followed by nine weeks of residential rehabilitation and home care. But other times, you will need leave in smaller chunks over a longer period of time. Suppose you have to spend four hours twice a week taking your elderly father to his doctor and are able to return to work for the remaining four hours in the day. In this case the time off, the eight hours per week, will be charged to your FMLA leave, but only that eight hours. If you are spreading this eight hours a week over the entire year, or several years, you will never run out of FMLA leave (assuming this is the only FMLA leave you take in a year).
This raises an additional question: The FMLA says you get 12 weeks leave, but how many hours is that? It is not an automatic 480 hours (40 hours a week x 12 weeks). Rather, it is 12 times the number of hours you typically work in a week. If you work 30 hours you will get 360 hours (30 hours x 12 weeks) but if you work 50 hours you will get 600 hours. (50 hours x 12 weeks). [Not only can an employee take a week or two off at a time, but they can also opt to change their employment status from full-time to part-time, ultimately reducing their total hours per day or week, but still working and earning an income.
There are three things you should do to ensure your intermittent leave is accepted, Check the requirements before even putting in for FMLA leave. If you’re not sure whether your employer has 50 employees or if you have worked 1250 hours within the past 12 months, just ask.
- Track your leave and send schedules to your employer at least two (2) weeks in advance of your leave.
- Do not abuse your FMLA leave. It is important to understand that although you are on a leave of absence, you should take all necessary precautions prior to leaving the office. Inform everyone of your leave, and make alternate communication options.
Things can come up in life that can put everything on hold. Whether it’s your health or a family member’s, it is important to realize that there is nothing more important than your family’s wellness. Take the proper precautions and double check the FMLA requirements before asking your employer for time off, and if you ever have any questions or would like legal advice, please, contact us at Maduff Law to get everything squared away.