The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was designed to help employees care for themselves, or their families, for up to twelve-weeks during any twelve-month period, as needed, without fear of losing their jobs. However, the leave is governed by regulations and other important details. Understanding these stipulations can better prepare you and help determine whether your job is at risk.
First, FMLA does not cover every employee. Your company must employ at least 50 people. To qualify you had to work for them for at least twelve months (not necessarily consecutive), and have worked 1,250 hours during that time.
Assuming you’ve met those requirements, FMLA can be used for the following:
- your own illness or injury
- attending to the health needs of your parent, spouse or child
- for pregnancy or care of a newborn child
- for adoption or foster placement of a child
- care for an injured service member in the family
One of the most common uses of FMLA is maternity leave and many women worry they’ll fall victim to pregnancy discrimination and their job will not be there upon their return.
If You Are Out on Approved FMLA, You Can’t Be Fired
The law is quite clear, if your FMLA leave has been approved, you cannot be fired for your absence. However, there is an approval process and your job is not protected until you have been approved for leave. This requires FMLA paperwork and coordinating the process with your company’s Human Resources department.
If the leave is for you, expect to fill out (with the help of your physician) the Healthcare Provider Certification Form. You can also expect to receive a Notice of Eligibility and Rights & Responsibilities Form from your employer. Like the title suggests, this document details your rights and your responsibilities under FMLA.
FMLA Provides Leeway for Your Company
There are several details FMLA leaves up to your employer. For instance, the twelve-month period in which you are eligible can be either per calendar year or based on when you left for leave prior. Also, while FMLA leave is unpaid, your employer can require you to use your vacation pay first and the employee-paid portion of your benefits (if applicable) may be deducted from that.
Understanding the Details
Since there are some details that are company specific under FMLA leave, it’s best to talk with your human resources representative. If one is not available at your office, consult the employee handbook. If you don’t have one, your manager can help you obtain a copy. Many companies offer them online now.
If possible, take the time to understand what they require of you so there are no surprises in the future. The birth of a child, or the care of a relative, can be a stressful time. You don’t want to be worrying about the details of FMLA at that point.
If you were out on FMLA leave and have been told not to return, or you were fired before your FMLA was approved contact a Tampa FMLA Attorney with experience. Call Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. today at 813-579-2483 for a free consultation. We can address your questions and concerns and make sure your rights are protected.