S. Amir Kohan

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (1993)

In general, the Family and Medical Leave Act sets in place new benefits for some employees in the country. If their employer has 50 or more people on the payroll, then they are required to permit FMLA leave of absence for their workers. FMLA provides for leaves
lasting up to 12 weeks in a 12-month period, and it is unpaid unless the employer has the policy to pay for the leave time. The 12-month period begins on the first day of leave. A new leave availability will occur 12 months from the date the first leave began. During the leave, it is an obligation of the employer to continue paying any benefit plan premiums that the employer would have paid if the employee had remained on the job. If there is a portion of the premium for health insurance that is normally paid by the employee,
that obligation for co-payment continues during the employee’s leave time. The 12 weeks’ leave may be taken in increments of 1 day or less.

To qualify, employees must have more than 1 year of service. The leave is authorized to cover childbirth or adoption; to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, or parent; or in case of the employee’s own serious illness. The employee is guaranteed to return to work on the same job, at the same pay, and under the same conditions as prior to the leave of absence. There are provisions for “Military Caregiver Leave” lasting up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave of absence for employees with family members needing care due to a military duty–related injury or illness. The 26-week limit renews every 12 months. The law provides for “National Guard and Military Reserve Family Leave.” Employees who are family members of the National Guard or Military Reservists who are called to active duty may take FMLA to leave to assist with preparing financial and legal arrangements and other family issues associated with rapid deployment or postdeployment activities. An employer may agree to any nonlisted condition as a qualifier for FMLA leaves as well. FMLA provides for “Light Duty Assignments.” It clarifies that “light duty” work does not count against an employee’s FMLA leave entitlement. It also provides that an employee’s right to job restoration is held in abeyance during the light duty period. An employee voluntarily doing light-duty work is not on FMLA leave.

There is an employment poster requirement. The notice must be posted at each work location where employees can see it without trouble. A “Medical Certification Process” is part of the new provisions. DOL regulations have specified who may contact the employee’s medical advisor for information, written or otherwise, and specifically prohibits the employee’s supervisor from making contact with the employee’s medical advisor.

Specific prohibitions are made against illegal discrimination for an employee taking advantage of the benefits offered under this law. These provisions are enforced by the EEOC. For more information, see www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/.

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