When health issues befall you or your family, it helps to know your job is safe. Even if you need to take time off of work, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers to allow you to keep your job. How it works can be confusing. Knowing your rights can reduce the strain of a sudden illness and help you keep your income.
Who Qualifies for FMLA
Most employees are able to use FMLA benefits. If any of the following apply to you, you likely qualify for FMLA:
- Employees of private businesses with more than 50 employees are usually covered by FMLA.
- The business must employ more than 50 workers for 20 or more weeks out of the current or previous calendar year.
- All government employees – including federal, state and local – are eligible.
- The FMLA covers educators at the elementary and secondary levels. This means middle and high school.
- If you work for a private business with less than 50 employees, you are not able to receive FMLA benefits. However, you may be eligible under state laws.
There are a few further conditions to receive FMLA benefits. These are:
- You must have worked for your employer for 12 total months. These months do not need to be consecutive. Therefore, seasonal workers can still qualify.
- You cannot have taken a break from that employer that lasted more than 7 years.
- You must have worked for a total of 1250 hours for the same employer within the 12 month period prior to taking leave. 1250 hours is approximately 24 hours per week for a full year. Sick leave or paid time off do not count toward this total.
- Your employer must have more than 50 employees within 75 miles of your work location. This is especially important if you work remotely. If the employer has fewer than 50 employees within 75 miles of where you work, you do not qualify for FMLA.
- Special qualifications apply to flight attendants and flight crew members. The FMLA Handbook outlines these.
What FMLA Does
The act provides qualified employees with 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period to care for a serious medical condition within their family. You can take the 12 weeks all at once, or at various times throughout the year. The FMLA defines “Family” as a parent, spouse or child. Serious medical conditions include:
- Any condition that requires an overnight stay at a hospital or other medical facility. This includes most drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities.
- A condition that incapacitates you or a family member for more than three consecutive days.
- Conditions that have intermittent periods of incapacitation. This means if you or a family member require medical aid for an ongoing, chronic issue that manifests twice or more per year.
- FMLA covers pregnancy and childbirth. You can also take time off to bond with a newly adopted child or foster child placed in your care.
After leave, the employer must reinstate the employee at their previous job, or a job with equal pay, hours, and benefits.
How to Use FMLA Benefits
You must ensure your employer is covered. Employers covered by FMLA must post information about it in a conspicuous place. If you see any signs about the Family and Medical Leave Act, you can probably use it. The employee handbook must also contain information regarding medical leave. Likewise, if you request information your employer is required to provide it.
Furthermore, the federal Department of Labor can tell you if your employer is covered.
If you have any difficulty determining whether or not you’re eligible, an attorney that specializes in this field can help. Human resources departments can likewise guide you through the FMLA process. Drug and alcohol addiction treatment facilities are also able to help you with this process.