The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and corresponding state laws require employers to offer 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for qualifying family or medical purposes. The employee’s health benefits are to continue during this leave.
When an employer is faced with a request for family or medical leave, they typically want to provide what is required by law while maintaining their right to enforce internal policies. Here are 3 FMLA compliance tips:
Understand the FMLA’s requirements
In states that follow the federal law (including Maryland and Virginia), the basic requirement is that the 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave be made available to any employee who has worked for the company for at least 12 months and clocked at least 1,250 hours during that period.
The FMLA applies to private-sector employers who have had at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius for 20 or more workweeks in the preceding calendar year, including joint employers. Public sector employers are covered by the law regardless of the number of employees.
The leave is available for:
- The birth, adoption or fostering of a new child
- To care for a close family member with a serious health condition
- To care for the employee’s own health condition that makes them unable to perform their job
- For a qualifying exigency involving a close family member who is an active-duty military member
Additionally, 26 workweeks of unpaid leave can be taken to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness, when that servicemember is a close family member.
The leave can be taken as a block or intermittently.
Be aware of local requirements
Employers with offices in Washington, D.C., should know that the District offers more generous family and medical leave under the DC Family and Medical Leave Act (DCFMLA).
- The DCFMLA applies to government and private sector employers with 20 or more employees.
- The leave offered is 16 weeks of unpaid family leave AND 16 weeks of unpaid medical leave within a 24-month period.
- To qualify, the employee must have worked for the employer for a year with no break in service, and who has worked at least 1,000 during the previous 12 months.
Designate the leave accurately
According to a U.S. Labor Department opinion letter that applies everywhere but the 9th Circuit, employers must designate employees’ leave as FMLA leave as soon as they know the leave qualifies under the FMLA. That means you can’t require the employee to use up their paid leave before they can take FMLA leave. Opinion letters are non-binding but can generally be relied upon.
If you have questions about the FMLA or DCFMLA, contact an experienced employment law attorney.