Caring for a loved one who is suffering from a serious health issue or illness can be extremely stressful and overwhelming, particularly if you are constantly having to take time off from work to take your loved one to doctor’s appointments and ensure that he or she is getting the appropriate treatment. The last thing you need to worry about is losing your job for taking too many days off from work to care for your loved one. However, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) states that you may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, after which you may return to your same job or one that is nearly identical. If your employer does not allow you to take time off to care for a loved one or does now allow you to return to your position, you are urged to contact an employment lawyer as soon as possible.
What Is the FMLA?
The FMLA of 1993 allows all eligible employees to take time off from work to care for a parent, spouse, child, or another loved one. It also provides unpaid, job-protected leave if you are unable to work because of a serious health condition. If you qualify for FMLA benefits, you may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period. Depending on the health condition, you may need to take the full 12 weeks all at once, or you may take time off intermittently throughout the year based on when your medical condition requires it. During your medical leave, you will maintain the same health insurance coverage, although you will be responsible for paying your part of the premiums.
Who Is Eligible for FMLA Leave?
To be eligible for FMLA leave, you must work for a covered employer, which generally includes private companies that have at least 50 employees; and any government agency, including local, state, and federal employers. Elementary and secondary schools are also covered by the FMLA, even if there are fewer than 50 employees. Private companies that have fewer than 50 employees are not covered by the FMLA; however, there may be state family and medical leave laws.
If you do work for a covered employer, there are a number of other criteria that you must meet in order for you to be eligible for FMLA leave. For example, you must be employed by the company for at least 12 months, although it does not necessarily need to be 12 months in a row for you to qualify, so seasonal workers are eligible for FMLA leave. However, if you leave your job for more than seven years, you will not be able to count the period of employment before the seven-year break toward the 12-month qualification. In addition, you must be employed for at least 1,250 hours during the required 12-month period before you may take leave. This works out to an average of approximately 24 hours per week over the course of a year. Finally, your place of employment must have at least 50 employees within 75 miles of the worksite. That means that even if there are more than 50 employees and you work at or near the worksite, you will not be eligible for FMLA leave if fewer than 50 employees are within 75 miles of the worksite.
When Can I Take FMLA Leave?
As long as your employer is covered by the FMLA and you meet the eligibility requirements, you may take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave in a 12-month period. The following are examples of health-related issues that would qualify for FMLA leave:
- Serious health condition: If you, a spouse, a child, or other family member has a serious health condition that requires you to take time off from work, you may take FMLA leave. Examples of health conditions that would qualify for FMLA leave include:
– An illness or health condition that requires you or a loved one to stay overnight in the hospital of other health care facility
– Any injury, illness, or health condition that causes you or your loved one to become incapacitated for more than three consecutive days and that requires ongoing medical treatment
– Any chronic condition that causes you or a loved one to become incapacitated and require treatment at least twice a year
– Appointment and time off needed during pregnancy, including prenatal doctor’s appointments, days off due to morning sickness, and medically required bed rest
- Military family leave: Military families are also entitled to FMLA leave. You may take FMLA leave for up to 26 weeks during a 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember who is suffering from a serious illness or injury.
- Expanding your family: You may also take FMLA leave after the birth of a child, or if you have adopted or are fostering a child. Men and women are eligible for the same FMLA leave, but it must be taken within one year of the child’s birth or placement. In addition, the leave must be taken as a continuous block, unless the employer agrees to intermittent leave. The following are examples of parties who are protected by FMLA leave:
– Parent: The FMLA considers a parent to be a biological, adoptive, step, or foster mother or father, or someone who stands in as loco parentis to the employee when he or she was a child.
– Son or daughter: This includes biological, adopted, foster, stepchild, or legal ward, or a child of someone standing in loco parentis, who is under the age of 18, or is 18 or older, but is incapable of caring for him or herself owing to a mental or physical disability.
– Spouse: This means a husband or a wife, and may include common law marriages and same-sex marriages.- In loco parentis: This is a person who provides day-to-day care for a child and may include individuals who do not have a biological or legal relationship with the child. An employee may also be eligible for FMLA leave to care for someone who stood in loco parentis for that employee when he or she was a child.
How Do I Go about Requesting FMLA Leave?
You are required to give your employer 30 days’ notice if you plan to take FMLA leave. If this is not possible, make sure that you notify your employer as soon as you know that you need to take time off. You will also need to provide your employer with documentation, such as certification from your health care provider, proving that you or a loved one has a serious health issue. Your employer may contact your doctor directly to confirm that the information is true.
You do not need to request FMLA leave specifically, but you do need to provide the information necessary so that your employer knows that it may be covered by the FMLA. Once your leave is approved and you need to take future leave, the requests must mention the specific condition that is causing you to take FMLA leave.
What Happens When I Return to Work after Taking FMLA Leave?
According to the FMLA, your employer must allow you to return to the same position that you had when you went on leave, or one that involves similar responsibilities and status; requires the same level of skill and authority; provides the same salary, including overtime and bonus opportunities; and offers the same benefits, including health benefits, disability, vacation, sick leave, and pensions.
How Do I File a Complaint if My Employer Denies My Request for FMLA Leave?
If your employer does not allow you to take time off to care for a loved one or to address a medical issue with which you are dealing, you may want to consider filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), which is the agency responsible for administering and enforcing the FMLA for most employees. You are also urged to contact an experienced employment lawyer who can address all your questions and concerns and recommend the best legal course of action. You will need to provide the following information when filing a complaint:
- Your name, address, and phone number
- The name and phone number of the company where you work
- The address of the company if it is different than the job site where you work
- The name of your manager or the owner of the company
- An explanation of why you are requesting FMLA leave, and your employer’s response to your request
Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Protect Worker’s Rights to Take Family Leave
If your employer does not allow you to take time off for medical reasons, either for yourself or a loved one, do not hesitate to contact the Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. We will conduct a thorough review of your case and determine whether your rights have been violated. Our skilled legal team will assist you with every step of the claims process and ensure that you receive the compensation to which you are entitled. Call us today at 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.