The Rules of the FMLA – Understanding the Law

In 1993, President Clinton signed the Family Medical Leave Act into law. The FMLA laid out protection of the rights of employees across the nation, allowing them to take unpaid leaves from their job for certain reasons without having to fear any repercussions from their employer. FMLA laws cover the majority of American workers, and employers must comply with the FMLA or face fines or even lawsuits. Compliance is often easier with FMLA management software, and Unicorn HRO can assist your business with its FMLA management needs. But while good management will simplify the process, just understanding the rules of the FMLA is the best way to ensure your company remains compliant.

The basic rule of the FMLA states that any qualifying employee of any employer that falls under the jurisdiction of the FMLA must be allowed to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave in order to care for a child or provide qualifying medical care to certain family members. The FMLA also states that the twelve weeks does not have to be simultaneous and that it can be at various points throughout the year. Additionally, a husband and wife employed by the same company cannot each take FMLA leave of twelve weeks to care for a newborn child. The twelve weeks of leave must be shared between them.

In order to fall under the laws of the FMLA an employer must employ at least fifty employees, who must have worked for twenty full weeks over the course of the previous calendar year. In order for specific employees to qualify for FMLA protection they must have been employed by the qualified employer for at least twelve months in a full time position. Additionally, the leave must fall under FMLA guidelines in order to receive the protection that is offered through FMLA law. If leave can be predicted the employee is required to provide notice of the leave at least thirty days prior it.

Acceptable reasons for FMLA leave include the birth and subsequent care of a child, the adoption of a new child, and serious medical conditions that require care in either the employee themselves or their children, spouse, or biological parents. Normal health issues such as headaches or common colds don't fall under FMLA protection, and FMLA leave can't be taken to provide care for extended family members. An employer has the right to inquire about the employee's intent to return to work throughout the duration of their FMLA leave.

FMLA laws protect qualifying employees from termination, demotions of position or pay, or loss of employee benefits during their FMLA qualifying leave. Employers who violate FMLA laws could incur serious penalties and lawsuits. Also, any employer who falls under the jurisdiction of the FMLA must post notice detailing the rights of both employers and employees in a conspicuous location. Managing mid-sized or larger companies can be difficult, and just deciding who actually qualifies for FMLA leave is tricky. Unicorn HRO can help make monitoring and managing leave of all types, especially Family Medical Leave Act absences, much easier to do. Following the law is much easier than dealing with the repercussions of noncompliance, so take the time to ensure your business is handling it the right way.

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