Employee rights: Unpaid family leave (FMLA/CFRA)
- On 6 July 2015
- Posted by Chantal Mariotti
Any employer with at least 50 employees must comply with FMLA. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and California Family Rights Act (CFRA) provide employees with unpaid leave for certain family and/or medical reasons. In order to comply with FMLA, the Private Company must have employed 50 or more employees during any 20 weeks of the year. Public agencies or public/private elementary or secondary schools also qualify, but don’t require a certain number of employees.
To be eligible for FMLA, the employee must have worked at least one year, or 1,250 hours. Employees who wish to take unpaid leave for family or medical reasons must work for an employer who is covered by FLMA. In addition, in order to be eligible, employees must work at a location that fulfills the 50+ employee requirement.
Eligible employees are entitled to 12 weeks off without pay. The terms and conditions of the FMLA state that employees can leave work for specific reasons. This includes if the employee is personally dealing with a serious health condition, or has a child, parent, or spouse who is seriously ill. The birth of a child also qualifies under FMLA. Another situation that is covered by FMLA is if an employee’s family member is deployed to active military duty or when faced with caring for an injured service member or veteran.
Train your managers so they know how to respond to employees that ask for time off. Managers should know when they are permitted to grant employees with a leave of absence. If your manager receives a request for time off, and simply says: “No, we are too busy now and I cannot give you the time off”, and does not ask additional inquiries as to why the employee needs this time off, then he/she may be placing your company in a liable position. Denying FMLA benefits if the employee is eligible is quite risky. Also, knowing the facts and rules surrounding this act can ensure that no problems or issues arise. Employees may request time off using the correct FMLA leave request forms. Eligibility should be carefully checked.
Make sure you trace all FMLA time off, and document it in writing to the employee. Update your employee handbook to include information about FMLA and take note of when your employee requests time off and how long they are absent. Inform your employees about the amount of leave they are permitted to take. Become knowledgeable about “intermittent” FMLA leave. Always maintain the appropriate documentation which can protect you and your company.