The Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides peace of mind for those who are covered that they can take time away from work to care for themselves, or an immediate family member, for up to 12 weeks and have a job upon their return. But it doesn’t cover every situation. The law is very specific about when you can take leave under the FMLA. Here’s what you need to know about this federally protected leave.
Qualified Reasons for Taking FMLA Leave
If you and your employer are covered under the Family & Medical Leave Act, you can take up to 12 weeks of leave for:
- The birth and care of a newborn
- Adoption or foster care placement
- Care of an immediate family member with a “serious health condition”
- Recuperating from your own “serious health condition” including pregnancy complications
Unlike other benefits that have been extended to cover co-habitants, the FMLA covers you, your spouse, your parents, and your children. Siblings, aunts, uncles, friends, significant others, pets, and in-laws are not covered. That is not to say your employer wouldn’t allow you to take a leave under its own policies, but that would be at your company’s discretion and not protected by the Family & Medical Leave Act.
What is a “Serious Health Condition” Under the FMLA
The Family & Medical Leave Act provides a very specific definition for a “serious health condition.” Pregnancy and prenatal care are included, as well as an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that:
- Requires an overnight stay at a hospital, clinic, or other medical facility.
- Is on-going and incapacitating (at least temporarily, as seen as more than three consecutive days) that requires treatment at least twice a year.
- Can result in periods of incapacity as in the case of serious health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and epilepsy.
- Results in periods of incapacity that might not be reversible or treatable such Alzheimer’s and stroke.
- Requires prolonged absences in order to receive treatments for a condition that would likely result in being incapacitated for more than three days if left untreated. Examples of this include chemotherapy, physical therapy, and dialysis.
You, or your immediate family member, need have only one of the previously listed conditions to qualify for FMLA leave if you are covered under the law.
The FMLA does not provide a list of allowed illnesses and non-allowed illnesses. For that reason, many HR representatives may not have a full understanding of the scope of what is considered a serious health condition. If you, or your immediate family member, has reason that you may be eligible for leave, consult an employment attorney. If your employer says your condition isn’t eligible, talk to someone who knows the law and the intricacies of the FMLA.
How Are Vacations and Holidays Handled?
The FMLA does not require you to use your vacation days or other paid time off. However, your employer may adopt a policy that requires its employees to use accrued paid time off for some or all of the FMLA leave period. You will need to refer to the employer’s policies. Pay for holidays is not required under the FMLA. If your employer offers paid holidays to employees on other kinds of leave (such a personal, non-FMLA leave) you would be entitled to pay consistent with the employer’s policies. FMLA leave is unpaid leave unless you have some accrued time under your employer’s policies which provides a basis for pay during the leave time. Under the FMLA, you are entitled to benefits (such as accruing vacation time) only to the extent other employees on non-FMLA leave would accrue such benefits. So, again, your employer’s policies will govern whether you accrue vacation time (or seniority or sick time) while you’re on FMLA leave.
If you, or an immediate family member, requires care and you’re not sure if those needs qualify under FMLA, talk to an attorney. At Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., we want you to be sure about your rights under the Family & Medical Leave Act. That’s why the initial consultation is free. Contact us today at (813) 224-0431.