Work Rights Press | The FMLA Handbook, Chapter One



fter eight years ofCongressional debate, thirteen votes, and two (Republican) presidential vetoes, Congress adopted the Family and Medical Leave Act on February 4, 1993. The FMLA allows employees to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave each year for medical or family reasons, and up to 26 weeks to care for servicemembers.

The FMLA covers:

Private-sector employers with 50 or more employees

Government employers, including federal, state, and local agencies and schools

You are eligible for FMLA leave if you:

Work for a covered employer, and

Have worked for your employer for at least 12 months, and

Have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months before the start of your leave, and

Work at a location where your employer employs 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.

An eligible employee may take up to 12 workweeks of job-protected leave in a 12-month period to:

Treat or recover from a serious health condition that makes you unable to perform your job (medical leave)

Care for a child, spouse, or parent suffering from a serious health condition (family-care leave)

Care for or bond with a newborn child, a newly adopted son or daughter, or a newly placed foster child (new-child leave)

Meet an exigency arising out of the fact that your spouse, son, daughter, or parent is on active duty in the National Guard or the Reserves, or has been notified of an impending call to duty — in support of a contingency operation

You are also entitled to up to 26 weeks of leave to care for a child, spouse, parent, or next of kin who suffers an injury or illness while serving in the U.S. military.

Serious health conditions include: injuries and illnesses requiring medical treatment which incapacitate you or a family member for more than three consecutive calendar days as well as incapacities due to pregnancy or a serious chronic disorder. The FMLA does not apply to colds, ear infections, or stomach upsets.

When medically necessary, FMLA leave may be taken intermittently or by reducing your scheduled days or hours.

Your employer may not deny you time off because of production needs or because you occupy an important position.

During your leave, your employer must maintain your group-health plan benefits as if you were working.

Your employer may request a certification prepared by a health care provider verifying that your leave is for a purpose recognized by the FMLA. Before returning from a medical leave, you may be re­quired to submit a fitness-for-duty report.

Your employer does not have to continue your wages during your absence. In certain circumstances, however, you may be able to draw on your accrued vacation or personal leave. Sick pay may also be available under your contract or a state disability-insurance program. Depending on your contract, your employer may be able to force you to use up your accrued paid leave.

Your employer may not warn, suspend, or discharge you for taking FMLA time. Nor may it issue an adverse evaluation, deny a promotion, count absences under an attendance control policy, or take other action against you.

If your need for time off is foreseeable or more days in advance — for example, if your doctor schedules you for an operation or you are expecting a child — you must give your employer 30 days notice. If you have one to 29 days foreknowledge, you must give notice as soon as practicable. In the case of unforeseeable absences you must give notice as soon as practicable pursuant to your employer's rules and policies.

When your leave is completed, your employer must restore you to your regular job or to an equivalent position with the same pay, benefits, duties, status, terms, and conditions.

Your employer must post a notice explaining the FMLA, include FMLA information in handbooks and benefit documents, promptly answer FMLA questions, and designate qualifying absences as FMLA leave.

FMLA rights can be enforced through the grievance procedure under most union contracts.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) administers the FMLA. Complaints can be filed with the Wage and Hour Division. Employ­ees can also sue in court.

Your employer may be in violation if a manager or supervisor:

Refuses to allow you an FMLA leave

Orders you to cut short your leave or to report for light duty

Fails to restore you to your former position or its equivalent

Withholds a benefit or privilege because you take FMLA leave

Uses coercion, threats, or intimidation to discourage you from taking FMLA leave

Gives you a poor evaluation or denies you a promotion because you take FMLA leave

Fires, disciplines, or demotes you because of FMLA absences

Punishes you for complaining about FMLA violations, telling others about the FMLA, or taking legal action

Denies you any other rights provided by the FMLA or the regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Labor

This is a sample chapter from The FMLA Handbook.

You can order The FMLA Handbook by downloading an order form or by going to our online store.