Family and Medical Leave Act

Coastal Human Resource Group, Inc. is a Human Resource Outsourcer (HRO). We serve as a full-service human resources department for small and medium sized businesses throughout the Southeast.

What is the Family and Medical Leave Act?

The Family and Medical Leave was enacted in 1993 by President Bill Clinton during his first term as part of his domestic agenda.
The FMLA was signed into law on February 5, 1993, and it falls under the administration of the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor. The law is designed to allow employees of the public and private sector to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave to recover from an illness, take care of a newborn or to care for a family member who is seriously ill. The leave must occur within a 12-month period. Employees are allowed to use paid leave according to the FMLA (including vacation and paid sick leave offered by the employer).

What are the Eligibility Requirements?

Not every employee or employer is covered by the FMLA. The law applies to employers who have had 50 or more employees for 20 weeks within the last year. Employers with fewer than 50 employees do not have to comply with the FMLA law. While not covered by FMLA, private employers with fewer than 50 employees may be covered by state medical leave laws. The FMLA law does cover elementary and secondary schools and government agencies despite the number of employees on staff.

However, just because your employer is covered by the FMLA law does not necessarily mean the employee has coverage. Employees have requirements they must fall under in order to qualify for benefits under the FMLA. The employee must be employed by the company for at least a year and the employer must have at least 50 employees on staff. The employee will need to have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours over the course of 12 months prior to the FMLA leave. The employee must also work at a site where the employer has at least 50 employees working within a 75-mile radius. Some states have passed their own laws that provide additional leave protections for workers.

Who Does the FMLA Not Apply to?

As mentioned, the FMLA does not apply to employers with less than 50 employees and employees who have not worked the required number of hours within a year. Elected officials are excluded from the FMLA Law. Certain employees who are considered to be in “highly compensated” positions may encounter limitations when they return to their employer.

Only those family members of the employee are covered by the FMLA law. This includes the employee’s spouse, parent, son, daughter (biological, adoptive, step, foster or acting as loco parentis for the child). Siblings, grandparents and in-laws of the employee are not covered by the law. Amendments to the law in 2008 and 2010, extended FMLA leave rights to family members who are in the military and families in same-sex or common-law marriages.

When Can Someone Use the FMLA Law?

An eligible employee can be approved for leave under these circumstances:

  • To provide care for yourself or a family member with a serious health condition
  • To provide care for a covered military service member or for specific reasons pertaining to a military deployment.
  • The birth of a child and bonding time, adoption of a child or foster care.

If an employee finds themselves in a position of having a serious illness or needing to take care of a sick family member, it is a good idea to acquire a form of medical certification from a health professional. The law does not require employees to show proof, but, under the law, employers can request documentation of the medical condition.

What are Your Rights under the FMLA?

After the leave, the employer must offer the employee a job but it may not be the same position previously held. The law states that the employer must return the employee to the same job or an equivalent job. Equivalent job is defined by the FMLA as a position with the same salary, benefits and work conditions. Work conditions refers to the shift time and location of work.