If you work in New Jersey no doubt you have heard about the Family Leave Act or the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. These laws provide protection to employees while they take time off from work for eligible purposes.
Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that requires covered employers to give their employees unpaid leave for qualified family and medical reasons with no threat of job loss.
Qualified family and medical reasons include:
- Family or personal illness
- Family military leave
- Foster care placement of a child
The Family and Medical Leave Act was enacted to balance workplace demands and family needs.
An employee is eligible to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave during any 12-month period to attend to any of the qualified medical and family reasons. During this period, the employee will continue to receive medical benefits without interruption.
The Family and Medical Leave Act seem straightforward regarding the benefits that the act provides. However, in practice, technicalities such as in the calculation of the leave period and determining if an employee is eligible for the leave may arise.
In such situations, the employers incorrectly comprehend the intricacies of the FMLA to their favor leading to the misapplication of the law.
Below are the eligibility criteria for employees to receive the Family and Medical Leave Act benefits:
- The organization must have employed the employee for 12 months or more.
- The employee needs to have worked for 1,250 hours or more during the 12 months before the expected start of family and medical leave.
- In the case of private employers, an employer must have 50 or more employees to give an employee a FMLA leave. Public organizations must give the employees FMLA leave regardless of the number of their employees.
You should note that 12 months of employment as an eligibility requirement for FMLA leave does not necessarily have to be consecutive.
However, a break of seven years or more does not count towards the years of service of an employee unless there was a written agreement or employee’s military obligations regarding the break.
When determining the hours of service for the purpose of FMLA eligibility, only the hours that the employee has actually worked are included.
This excludes the holidays, vacations, sick days and other situations where the employee was unable to come to work whether paid or not.
You may have to provide medical certification as well as leave notice in advance to your employer. The employer may deny you the FMLA if you fail to comply.
In most cases, you will be required to give 30 days advance notice for a ‘foreseeable’ FMLA leave. Your employer, at his or her expense, will require a second or third party opinion to determine your fitness to return to work.
As long as an employee is on the FMLA leave, the employer must keep his or her health coverage up to date.
The employee will go back to his or her original or equivalent position with the same benefits, pay and other terms of employment.
The leave will not result in any loss of benefits that an employee earned before the FMLA leave started.
An employer should not interfere with, deny, or restrain the exercise of FMLA right.
The employer should not discriminate or discharge any person opposing the unlawful FMLA practices.
The FMLA laws are as enacted by the U.S Department of Labor, which investigates and tries to resolve complaints of FMLA violations. FMLA eligible employees can bring a civic action against their employers for FMLA violations.
For both the employer and the employee alike, a violation of FMLA laws can become a major concern. Employers may end up paying huge fines while the employee may experience devastating effects from the FMLA leave denial.
You will need to consult an attorney well versed in employment laws to guide you through the Family Medical Leave Act, whether you are an employer or an employee.
David H. Kaplan is an experienced employment law attorney in New Jersey that helps clients pursue claims of unfair employment practices. Contact us today for more information about our services in Essex, Middlesex, Union, Morris and Somerset counties!