It is very important that an employer understand the
Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA.) An employer who has 50 or more employees is
subject to this Act. To be an eligible employee, one must have worked for the
employer for at least one year or over 1250 hours. FMLA entitles one up to a
total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period because of a
serious health condition.
An employee may elect, or the employer may require, the
employee to substitute accrued paid vacation, personal leave, or sick leave
during this period of time. When the employee returns to work, the employer
must return the worker to his former position or an equivalent position, with
equivalent employee benefits. Usually, when a worker takes FMLA leave, he does
not get paid. However, "paid time off" or vacation pay or sick pay may be given
if the employee has earned these benefits.
If an injured worker takes the Family Medical Leave and
cannot return to work after the twelve weeks expire, generally the employer
does not then have an obligation to rehire the worker at a later date. In other
words, the employer is not required to hold the job open indefinitely.
There are very strict requirements concerning when the
FMLA applies and how it is determined. A thorough understanding of the
requirements and specifics of the FMLA is essential. There is a close
relationship between the Family Medical Leave Act, the Americans with
Disabilities Act, and the workers' compensation system, in returning injured
workers to work. The employer must always have a good understanding of how
these laws work together and how to meet the legal requirements.