Know Your FMLA/CFRA Rights

The Family and Medical Leave Act, also known as FMLA, was established to protect workers who might encounter situations that require them to leave work to attend to personal or family needs that surpass their ability to continue their employment. FMLA leave is not permanent but rather allows employees to take time off in particular situations. In this article, we’ll cover the instances in which you may take FMLA leave and your rights when doing so.

What can you use FMLA for?

  • Family
  • Health
  • Birth

If You Work for a Covered Employer, Your Group Healthcare Benefits Must Continue

According to the United States Department of Labor, the FMLA entitles employees who work for covered employers to take job-protected, unpaid leave that the FMLA specifies that are related to the medical needs of your family or yourself, and other events such as a new child joining the family. When you are away from work under FMLA-covered leave, your covered employer is required to allow you to continue your group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions if you had not used FMLA leave to attend to a personal or family situation covered under the FMLA.

Your Employer Must Allow You to Return to Your Job

When working for a covered employer, the primary benefit of FMLA is your capacity to maintain your health insurance coverage while away during a potentially life-threatening situation. Your work insurance will protect your health and that of your loved ones, which could mean the difference between life and death or financial stability and bankruptcy. An additional key benefit is that your employer must hold your job for you.

The duration of covered FMLA leave is 12 weeks, nearly three months. As noted by the Employment Development Department of California, the FMLA enables you to attend to your or a family member’s serious health conditions or bond with a new child in your family. How to add a new member covered under the FMLA varies.

Your New Child in Your Family Can Be Born, Adopted, or Fostered

It is important to note that FMLA covers you when your family has had a new child. FMLA does not confine the term “new child” to only instances in which there has been a newborn in your family. According to the Department of Labor, the FMLA covers bonding with a new child—not only a newborn but also an adopted child. Families that foster a child may take FMLA leave, but only during the first year of a placement of a foster child in your family’s home.

The CFRA Provides You With Additional Protections if Your Employer Is in California

The CFRA is the California Family Rights Act, which according to the Employment Development Department of the State of California, works in conjunction with the FMLA to protect the rights of workers when they or their families encounter a situation of change or health challenge. You may take the leave to care for yourself or a family member, to bond with a new child, or to participate in a qualifying event due to a family member’s military deployment overseas.

You Must Meet Specific Criteria to Qualify for FMLA/CFRA

For an employee to qualify for FMLA, they must meet particular criteria. The employee must have worked for at least 12 months for a covered employer. During that time, they must have worked 1,250 hours in the 12 months before the start of FMLA leave. Under the FMLA, the employee also must work at a worksite with more than 50 employees under the employer’s employment within 50 miles of that particular worksite.

FMLA covers private employers who have over 50 employees on the payroll during any 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. All public employers are covered by FMLA, regardless of the number of employees they have. Paid employees, unpaid, part-time, or on commission, are still generally covered by the FMLA if they meet the other necessary criteria for qualification.

The requirements to meet FMLA can be challenging to understand in some circumstances. An experienced attorney can help you understand your rights and options if your employer does not respect your rights.

Family Medical Leave Act FAQs

What does FMLA stand for?

FMLA stands for the Family and Medical Leave Act, established by the government to protect workers’ rights in times of change or health challenges in their families.

For what purposes can I use FMLA?

The key purposes of FMLA are health, family, and children, meaning you may take it if there is a serious health problem with yourself or a family member, or you’ve added a child through your home through birth, adoption, or fostering.

How long does FMLA-covered leave last?

FMLA-covered leave lasts for up to 12 weeks, after which time you may return to your job.

What are the key benefits of FMLA leave concerning my job?

The key benefits of FMLA leave are that you may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for yourself, your family, or a new child, and during that time, you may keep your group health insurance from your employer under the same terms, and your employer must return your job to you upon completion of the FMLA leave.

What are my options if my employer refuses to maintain my insurance or return my job?

Aaron M. Olsen
Attorney, Aaron Olsen

If you have taken FMLA leave from a covered employer, and your rights are not being honored, a lawyer is a great advocate to protect your rights and determine your options for recovering damages.

Does FMLA Leave Have To Be Used All At Once?

The short answer is no. The Family Medical Leave Act is federal legislation that protects an employee’s right to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave under qualifying circumstances. During leave, the employee’s job is protected – meaning the employee can’t be terminated while on leave. Upon the employee’s return, the employer must provide the same position or a similar one with equivalent or better pay and benefits than before the leave was taken.

Qualifying circumstances include the following:

  • Preparation for the birth of a child and to bond with it as a newborn;
  • Adoption of a child or placement in foster care to permit a bonding period;
  • When an immediate family member (such as a child, spouse, or parent) with a serious health condition needs care from the employee;
  • When the employee is themselves afflicted by a serious health condition that prevents them from working; and
  • Qualifying needs for an employee’s immediate relative who is on covered active duty as a member of the military.

Depending upon your reason to take leave, you may be wondering if you must take your 12 weeks of FMLA leave all at once. In short, the answer is no – but there are certain considerations you make take into account before asking for an intermittent or reduced leave schedule.

What Workers Should Know about Intermittent & Reduced Leave Schedules

While you cannot extend the total amount of leave time you get, under certain circumstances you may be able to pace it out in a way that makes it last longer over the 12-month period where your qualifying reason remains valid.

In other words, it’s possible to work out a system where you continue your work in between time off for your FMLA-qualified reason. You can accomplish this by arranging a modified or reduced schedule with your employer that uses your 12 weeks of FMLA leave to adjust your otherwise employer-required daily or weekly schedule.

Such can be the case if you are caring for your own serious medical condition or that of a relative, especially when regular visits to the doctor or hospital are anticipated. Employees who want to take FMLA leave to bond with their newly born or adopted children can also be taken intermittently, but an employer must approve the schedule proposed by the employee.

Despite the flexibility that may be afforded in how FMLA leave can be used, an alternative arrangement of leave time cannot extend beyond 12 months after it began.

Contact Haeggquist & Eck, LLP for Legal Help

At Haeggquist & Eck, LLP, it’s our goal to help employees hold their employers accountable for violating their employment rights. We are fearless advocates for our clients who were taken advantage of or abused by their employers. It’s our job to help them fight for justice through fair and just compensation while holding their employers accountable for violating their rights.

If you think your FMLA rights were violated, reach out to Haeggquist & Eck, LLP today to schedule a case evaluation. After learning more about your situation, we’ll be able to assess whether or not you may have a strong case. We’ll also inform you of potential options you have for moving forward with your claim, and how our firm can help you fight for what you deserve.

Take advantage of our free case evaluation by scheduling yours today. Call us at (619) 342-8000 or fill out our online contact form to get in touch with someone who can help.

FMLA Leave Expanded For Military Family Members and Airline Flight Crew Employees

The U.S. Department of Labor has amended the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) to expand leave available to military family members and airline flight crew employees. The expansion is expected to affect more than 91 million workers working for 1.2 million employers.

Military Family Members

Qualifying Exigency Leave

Employees eligible for FMLA are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of leave for a qualifying exigency, which includes the following categories: (1) short notice deployment, (2) military events and related activities, (3) childcare and school activities, (4) financial and legal arrangements, (5) counseling, (6) rest and recuperation (“R&R”), (7) post-deployment activities, and (8) additional activities agreed to by the employer and employee. Under the 2013 amendments, R&R leave is expanded to 15 days from five days, and the list of required information for certification of such leave is expanded to include documentation issued by the military setting forth the dates of the military member’s R&R leave.

The 2013 expansion also adds a new category of exigency leave: parental care leave. Eligible employees may now take leave to care for a military member’s parent when the care is necessitated by the military member’s deployment to a foreign country, and when the parent is incapable of self-care. Types of parental care include arranging for alternative care, providing care on an immediate need basis, admitting or transferring the parent to a care facility, or attending meetings with staff at a care facility.

Military Caregiver Leave

Under FMLA’s military caregiver leave, eligible employees (i.e., employees who are the spouse, child, parent, or next of kind of a servicemember) may take up to 26 weeks of leave to care for a covered servicemember undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy for a serious injury or illness. The Department of Labor has expanded the list of healthcare providers who are authorized to complete a certification for military caregiver leave to include healthcare providers who are not affiliated with the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, or TRICARE.

Under the 2013 amendments, FMLA’s definition of “covered servicemember” is expanded from current member of the Armed Forces, including National Guard and Reserve members, to include covered veterans, i.e., those released or honorably discharged at any time during the five-year period prior to the employee’s taking FMLA leave to care for the veteran. Additionally, “serious injury or illness” is expanded to include not only those injuries or illnesses incurred in the line of duty by a member on active duty that may render the servicemember medically unfit to perform his or her duties, but also injuries or illnesses which existed before the beginning of the servicemember’s active duty, and were aggravated by service in the line of duty.

For veterans, the definition of “serious illness or injury” also includes those physical or mental conditions for which the veteran has received a Veterans Affairs Service Related Disability Rating of 50% or greater, or a physical or mental condition that substantially impairs the veteran’s ability to secure or maintain gainful occupation, or an injury, including a psychological injury, on the basis of which the veteran has been enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.

Airline Flight Crew Employees

The FMLA has special provisions for airline flight crew employees (i.e., flight crew members and flight attendants). The 2013 amendments to FMLA set forth these provisions in Subpart H: Special Rules Applicable to Airline Flight Crew Employees.

An airline flight crew employee meets FMLA’s hours of service requirement, and is eligible for FMLA, if, during the previous 12-month period, the airline flight crew employee has worked or been paid for not less than 60% of the applicable monthly guarantee and has worked or been paid for not less than 504 hours, excluding commute time, vacation, or sick or medical leave.

An eligible airline flight crew employee is entitled to 72 days of leave during a single 12-month period for all FMLA-qualifying reasons other than military caregiver leave, and 156 days for military caregiver leave.

To schedule your free initial consultation, contact us online or call (619) 342-8000 today!

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