Frequently Asked Questions About Family Medical Leave (FMLA)
How much leave am I entitled to under FMLA?
As a state employee you are entitled to 12 weeks of leave for certain family and medical reasons during a 12-month period.
How is the 12-month period calculated under FMLA?
Employers may select one of four options for determining the 12-month period:
1) the calendar year; or
2) any fixed 12-month “leave year” such as a fiscal year, a year required by state law, or a year starting on the employee’s “anniversary” date; or
3) the 12-month period measured forward from the date any employee’s first FMLA leave begins; or
4) a “rolling” 12-month period measured backward from the date an employee uses FMLA leave.
Does the law guarantee paid time off?
No. The FMLA only requires unpaid leave. However, the law permits an employee to elect to use accrued paid leave, such as vacation or sick leave, for some or all of the FMLA leave period. When paid leave is substituted for unpaid FMLA leave, it may be counted against the 12-week FMLA leave entitlement if the employee is properly notified of the designation when the leave begins.
Does workers’ compensation leave count against an employee’s FMLA leave entitlement?
It can. FMLA leave and workers’ compensation leave can run together, provided the reason for the absence is due to a qualifying serious illness or injury and the employer properly notifies the employee in writing that the leave will be counted as FMLA leave.
Can the employer count leave taken due to pregnancy complications against the 12 weeks of FMLA leave for the birth and care of my child?
Yes. An eligible employee is entitled to a total of 12 weeks of FMLA leave in a 12-month period. If the employee has to use some of that leave for another reason, including a difficult pregnancy, it may be counted as part of the 12-week FMLA leave entitlement.
Can the employer count time on maternity leave or pregnancy disability as FMLA leave?
Yes. Pregnancy disability leave or maternity leave for the birth of a child would be considered qualifying FMLA leave for a serious health condition and may be counted in the 12 weeks of leave so long as the employer properly notifies the employee in writing of the designation.
If an employer fails to tell employees that the leave is FMLA leave, can the employer count the time they have already been off against the 12 weeks of FMLA leave?
In most situations, the employer cannot count leave as FMLA leave retroactively. Remember, the employee must be notified in writing that an absence is being designated as FMLA leave. If the employer was not aware of the reason for the leave, leave may be designated as FMLA leave retroactively only while the leave is in progress or within two business days of the employee’s return to work.
Who is considered an immediate “family member” for purposes of taking FMLA leave?
An employee’s spouse, children (son or daughter), and parents are immediate family members for purposes of FMLA. The term “parent” does not include a parent “in-law”. The terms son or daughter do not include individuals age 18 or over unless they are “incapable of self-care” because of mental or physical disability that limits one or more of the “major life activities” as those terms are defined in regulations issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
May I take FMLA leave for visits to a physical therapist, if my doctor prescribes the therapy?
Yes. FMLA permits you to take leave to receive “continuing treatment by a health care provider,” which can include recurring absences for therapy treatments such as those ordered by a doctor for physical therapy after a hospital stay or for treatment of severe arthritis.
Which employees are eligible to take FMLA leave?
Employees are eligible to take FMLA leave if they have worked for their employer for at least 12 months, and have worked for at least 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months, and work at a location where at least 50 employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles.
Do the 12 months of service with the employer have to be continuous or consecutive?
No. The 12 months do not have to be continuous or consecutive; all time worked for the employer is counted.
Do the 1,250 hours include paid leave time or other absences from work?
No. The 1,250 hours include only those hours actually worked for the employer. Paid leave and unpaid leave, including FMLA leave, are not included.
How do I determine if I have worked 1,250 hours in a 12-month period?
Your individual record of hours worked would be used to determine whether 1,250 hours had been worked in the 12 months prior to the commencement of FMLA leave.
Do I have to give my employer my medical records for leave due to a serious health condition?
No. You do not have to provide medical records. The employer may, however, request that, for any leave taken due to a serious health condition, you provide a medical certification confirming that a serious health condition exists.
Can my employer require me to return to work before I exhaust my leave?
Subject to certain limitations, your employer may deny the continuation of FMLA leave due to a serious health condition if you fail to fulfill any obligations to provide supporting medical certification. The employer may not, however, require you to return to work early by offering you a light duty assignment.
Are there any restrictions on how I spend my time while on leave?
Employers with established policies regarding outside employment while on paid or unpaid leave may uniformly apply those policies to employees on FMLA leave. Otherwise, the employer may not restrict your activities. The protections of FMLA will not, however, cover situations where the reason for leave no longer exists, where the employee has not provided required notices or certifications, or where the employee has misrepresented the reason for leave.
Can my employer make inquiries about my leave during my absence?
Yes, but only to you. Your employer may ask you questions to confirm whether the leave needed or being taken qualifies for FMLA purposes, and may require periodic reports on your status and intent to return to work after leave. Also, if the employer wishes to obtain another opinion, you may be required to obtain additional medical certification at the employer’s expense, or rectification during a period of FMLA leave. The employer may have a health care provider representing the employer contact your health care provider, with your permission, to clarify information in the medical certification or to confirm that it was provided by the health care provider. The inquiry may not seek additional information regarding your health condition or that of a family member.
Can my employer refuse to grant me FMLA leave?
If you are an “eligible” employee who has met FMLA’s notice and certification requirements (and you have not exhausted your FMLA leave entitlement for the year), you may not be denied FMLA leave.