Most, if not all, employees often face certain emergency situations that require them to skip work for an extended period of time. Like most of us, they also have to deal with certain family and/or medical matters. There are those who have to be with their loved ones who are suffering serious health conditions. There are female employees who need to take some time off to give birth and bond with their newborn. Even employees themselves have to take a leave of absence for a week, especially if they are unable to work because of serious health conditions.
In these unexpected circumstances, they must be aware that they are protected under the federal law called the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor, the said Act provides qualified employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. The law also involves their group health benefits, stating that they should be maintained while employees take their leave of absence.
According to the federal Labor Department, the main goal of the FMLA is to provide employees the opportunity to balance their responsibilities between work and family by permitting them “to take reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons.” Likewise, the federal law also puts into account the general interests of employers, as well as the promotion of equal opportunity within the workplace.
Basic FMLA regulations
Basically, the FMLA provides covered and eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for any of the following situations:
- Birth and eventual bonding with the newborn child;
- Adopting a child or placing a child in foster care;
- Taking care of the spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition; or
- Receiving treatment for a serious health condition.
Another thing people must know about the FMLA is on which employers are covered by the law’s regulations and the eligibility rules for employees. On one hand, employers that are covered by the federal law include the following:
- Employers in the private sector with 50 or more employees;
- Public agencies, especially those within the local, state, or federal levels; or
- Elementary or secondary schools, either private or public.
Note that the Family and Medical Leave Act disregards the minimum number of employees on public agencies and elementary/secondary schools that are covered by the law.
On the other hand, employees are considered Family and Medical Leave Act-covered if they satisfy the following eligibility requirements:
- They work for an employer covered by the FMLA.
- They have worked for their employers for at least 12 months.
- They have accumulated at least 1,250 hours of service for their employers within the 12-month period before the leave date approaches; and
- They must have worked at locations wherein their employers have at least 50 employees that are within a 75-mile radius of their work site.
Taking legal action
As an employee, it is imperative that your employer is not only covered by the FMLA regulations, but must also comply with them. If you are truly entitled to your leave given a reasonable excuse, your employer must not only give you the right to skip work, but must ensure that doing so won’t have any consequences on your job security. In other words, you must be reinstated back to work after you’ve used up your leave. Also, you shouldn’t be discriminated, harassed, or retaliated against by your employer for exercising this employee right. Otherwise, it would be in your best interest to file an employment claim against your erring employer. In order to do this, you must first seek the expertise of FMLA claim lawyers.