While the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 does provide peace of mind for job protection, it doesn’t always ease the financial stress of the medical bills and everyday expenses that can pile up during unpaid leave. Ensuring at least some income for approved time off is essential for most, but it’s hard to know what kind of paycheck (if any) an employee might be granted in his or her absence. Wondering if FMLA is worth it for workers? Consider this your guide to getting paid.
FMLA Eligible Employees are Entitled to 12 Workweeks of Unpaid Leave
Workers who qualify for FMLA – based on their time invested at a company (12 months or 1,250 hours within the 12 months before the anticipated leave), as well as the businesses number of employees (at least 50 within 75 miles of a worker’s employment location) – are entitled to unpaid leave.
FMLA ensures employees can schedule up to 12 weeks of job-protected absence for the care of a family member like the staffer’s child, spouse, or parent. In some cases, intermittent leave may be granted to an employee with his or her own serious health condition.
Since employment law and FMLA don’t include pay provisions, employees must take the unpaid time off at their own discretion. It’s important to note that while a traditional paycheck isn’t guaranteed, it is possible for workers to receive alternative income via their company’s available employee benefits.
Understanding FMLA and Paid Time Off (PTO)
Chances are, if you qualify for FMLA you likely work for a mid-sized to large company that provides some type of employee benefits package. If you’re a full-time, covered employee it’s usually possible to spend PTO for at least part of FMLA. In fact, some companies may require you to exhaust any accrued PTO before supplementing an absence with unpaid leave.
Therefore, it is possible to receive a paycheck while on FMLA, but only through the use of company-approved PTO or sick time.
Know that the elective use of PTO for your approved FMLA leave is subject to your company’s employee benefits guidelines; however, as a general rule of thumb, you should be entitled to use available paid hours in the same way any other worker would – regardless of your impending FMLA time off.
Denied Employee Benefits for FMLA is Often the Same as Unpaid Wages
Imagine for a moment that your coworker left the office for 14 days to care for his sick child. During his absence, he used his available PTO to supplement his paycheck. Your coworker returned after those two weeks without discipline or retaliation for the time taken.
If this consideration or a similar one was granted for a company worker, yet you were denied your available PTO prior to or during your FMLA leave, then you may be entitled to unpaid wages plus damages for FMLA workplace discrimination.
When it comes to FMLA and PTO, an employer can’t play favorites. An employment attorney can determine if your employee benefits were wrongfully denied.