FMLA Needs in education facilities
The Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, applies to state, local, and federal-covered employees. Employees of local education facilities (public or private schools) also fall under this coverage. Family and medical leave for education facilities may vary slightly, and it is important for education facilities to be aware of their obligations to ensure that they are acting within the guidelines and avoid facing penalties for non-compliance.
Family and medical leave allows employees to take necessarily unpaid leave for certain family or medical events, including the birth or adoption of a child, serious health condition of a spouse, child, or parent, amongst other conditions. Typically, employees are eligible for 12 work weeks of unpaid leave within a 12 month period. However, they must meet certain eligibility requirements, as must the company itself. For example, employers working at companies with less than 50 employees may not be eligible unless they work for a public agency or local educational agency. There are exceptions to what and who is covered by the act. For example, routine medical checkups, caring for seriously ill relatives other than parents, and part time workers who have not met the 1,250 hours requirements within the 12 months prior to requesting leave, may not be eligible for family and medical leave.
The act helps employees to balance their work and family responsibilities. Research carried out by the Department of Labor in 2012 shows the positive impact this act has for employees without causing disruption to employers and their companies. Results showed that employers found the law easy to comply with. However, it is important for employers to be familiar with these FMLA laws, as differences between industries may apply, as well as differences for employees who are part of military families. Similarly, certain states have instigated different laws and definitions. For example, Maine has lowered the threshold for employer coverage within a private company, with companies employing 15 or more employers becoming eligible for family and medical leave, rather than 50 employees. Special rules also apply to instructional employees of local education agencies, those who are employed to teach and instruct a class of students. These rules affect how leave is taken if family and medical leave is requested at the end of the year or school semester. For example, if an instructor applies for family and medical leave within 3 weeks of summer break, and leave will last more than 5 days, the education facilities may request that the instructor continue to take leave until the end of term. However, only the leave applied for will be used against the instructors entitled leave. Similar guidelines apply for those applying for leave depending on the amount of leave being taken and the number of weeks before the end of the semester or academic year. Other instances include where an instructor requests leave which will begin before summer break and continues afterwards, in which case the summer break period is not counted towards entitled leave. These rules do not apply to trade schools, pre-schools, colleges, and universities.
FMLA needs in education facilities are therefore different from other industries, and education facilities should be aware of these nuances to ensure full compliance and an understanding of their rights and responsibilities as employers.