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Am I allowed to take time away from work due for family and medical reasons?

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The Family and Medical Leave Act was enacted to ensure that eligible employees can enjoy unpaid job-protected leave for qualifying family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. In essence, FMLA leave is designed to prevent an eligible employee from experiencing a family or medical event and winding up without a job and without insurance. And, when an employee returns from FMLA leave, they must be restored to the same job that the employee held when the leave began, or to an equivalent job.

Who is entitled to benefits?

The FMLA only applies to certain employers. Specifically, only employers who have 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or previous year or employers who are public agencies, such as the federal government, must comply with the statute.

Likewise, the FMLA only applies to certain employees. Employees who have worked for at least 12 months and for at least 1,250 hours in the 12-month period before taking leave are entitled to FLSA benefits. Employees must also work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your worksite to be eligible.

What rights does the FMLA provide?

One benefit the FMLA does not provide is the right to be paid while you are out on leave. The FMLA obligates employers to allow you leave, if you are eligible, but does not require them to pay you for it.

Eligible employees are entitled to:

  • Twelve workweeks of leaver in a 12-month period for:
    • the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
    • the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
    • to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
    • a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
    • any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty;” or
  • Twenty-six work weeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the servicemember’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).

The FMLA’s interaction with other rights and laws.

The FMLA may apply in addition to other federal laws, state or local laws, an employer’s policies, or a collective bargaining agreement. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to the terms and conditions of employment. If an employee is a qualified individual with a disability within the meaning of the ADA, the employer must make reasonable accommodations, unless such an accommodation would result in an undue hardship for the employer. An employer must provide leave under whichever authority provides the employee with greater rights and protections, including federal and state antidiscrimination laws.

As the Department of Labor recently explained, leave provisions of the FMLA are distinct from the reasonable accommodation obligations of employers covered under the ADA.

A reasonable accommodation under the ADA might be accomplished by providing an individual with a disability with a part-time job with no health benefits . . . [h]owever, FMLA would permit an employee to work a reduced leave schedule until the equivalent of 12 workweeks of leave were used, with group health benefits maintained during this period. The ADA might require that an employer offer an employee a reasonable accommodation, while the FMLA would entitle an employee to return to work at the same or a virtually identical position as held prior to the FMLA leave period.

WHD Opinion Letter FMLA2023-1-A (2023).

Do you have questions about your FMLA rights?

As with many laws, understanding a law that involves interpreting statutory language, interpretive regulations, and agency guidance can be difficult. If you believe your FMLA rights may have been violated, you may be entitled to recover monetary damages as well as equitable relief in the form of back pay, reinstatement, front pay, and liquidated damages.

If you have questions about your leave under the FMLA or believe your rights have been violated, contact our office for a free consultation.


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ADVERTISING ONLY: The information on this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

Past results obtained by Biller & Kimble, LLC are no guarantee of future results. Each case or matter is different and must be judged on its own merits.