In a recent survey of 441 human resource professionals, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) was overwhelmingly identified as the single most problematic federal employment law. The FMLA, which covers employers with at least 50 employees, allows eligible employees to take temporary leaves of absence for certain family and medical reasons. Employers have long struggled with administering the FMLA, and expressed frustration about the FMLA’s pro-employee framework and potential for abuse. To help combat these problems, below is a list of commonly asked questions about the basic FMLA requirements for employers and employees, along with some answers.
Is your company covered by the FMLA?
In general, the FMLA covers all private employers with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius, during 20 or more workweeks of either the current or prior calendar year. If those two requirements are met, your company is covered by the FMLA.
Who is eligible to take FMLA leave?
Employees of a covered employer must have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately preceding the first date of their FMLA leave. Also, the stated reason for the leave must be covered by the FMLA.
What types of leave are covered by the FMLA?
In general, the FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period for the birth of a child (or placement for adoption or foster care), to care for the employee’s own serious health condition, and to care for an immediate family member’s serious health condition. The FMLA also provides up to 12 weeks of leave for issues relating to care of covered military members, and up to 26 weeks of leave in a 12-month period to care for various personal and family issues arising for certain “military exigencies.”
Does your company have a written FMLA policy?
All employers covered by the FMLA are required to have a written FMLA policy. The policy informs employees of their rights and obligations under the FMLA. The written policy serves as a quick reference guide for the person administering your FMLA policy.
Do you have employees in New Jersey?
New Jersey is among a handful of states with family or medical leave laws governing private employers. If your company has at least one (1) employee in New Jersey, that employee may be eligible for certain types of family leave provided by New Jersey’s Family Leave Act (NJFLA) – even if all of your other employees work in Pennsylvania or Delaware for example. Compared to the FMLA, the NJFLA has fewer requirements to qualify for leave, and provides different types of leave. In rare instances, an employee may be able to “stack” leave under both laws and take up to 24 weeks of leave in a 12-month period.
Is your FMLA policy posted and included in your handbook?
Your FMLA policy must be posted in a “conspicuous” location in your workplace, i.e., the employee lunchroom or other location where mandatory employer posters have been posted. If your company has an employee handbook, the FMLA policy also must be included in the handbook. Also, companies that have employees in New Jersey must have separate policies that encompass both the FMLA and NJFLA.
Does your policy incorporate recent amendments to the FMLA?
In 2008, the FMLA was amended to include leave for issues relating to care of covered military members and leave to handle various personal and family issues arising from qualifying “military exigencies.” These amendments must be included in your policy, and distributed to all new and existing employees.
Who is administering your FMLA policy?
Employers should not rely on supervisors to administer the FMLA policy. Rather, a human resource manager or other management-level employee must be given responsibility for administering and enforcing the FMLA policy. Their duties will include satisfying record-keeping requirements, making decisions about leave eligibility, ensuring that medical and personal information is kept strictly confidential, and communicating with employees about FMLA requests and other issues. Your administrator also should look for signs of FMLA abuse or fraud, and seek assistance when questions or disputes arise.
Even though the above questions and answers cover the most basic FMLA requirements, it is these basic requirements that employers most frequently violate.