Understanding the Family Medical Leave Act
Wage & Hour Division (WHD)
As an employee, you are protected under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) if you need to take an unpaid leave for specific family and medical issues. You have the right to have a continuation of your medical coverage, and expect to have your job in place when you return to work after your leave of absence.
The FMLA specifies that an employee is entitled to 12 weeks of leave in a 12 month period in the following situations:
- Birth of a child and to care for the infant within one year of the birth
- To care for a close family member with a serious health condition, such as your parent, spouse, or child
- To manage your own serious health condition that has made it impossible to perform the duties and functions necessary in your employment
- To care for a child who has been placed with the employee for foster care or adoption, within one year of placement
- To address any qualifying difficulties that arise from the covered active duty of the employee's spouse, child, or parent
Additionally, this act entitles an employee to 26 weeks of leave during a 12 month period to care for their spouse, child, parent, or next of kin who is a covered serviceman with a serious illness or injury.
When Medical Information will be Required
Medical information can be requested in certain situations such as the following:
- An employee that is eligible for leave takes it due to their own health issues or the issues of a qualified relative. They may be required to provide medical certification from a healthcare provider within a 15 day period of time, otherwise their FMLA/CFRA leave may be denied.
- The department can seek a second opinion for the medical certification of the employee. When the second medical opinion differs from the first, a third can be sought and this final opinion will be the last deciding factor. This will all be done at the expense of the department.
- For a worker that seeks further time than what was originally granted, or if the department receives information that causes it to question the need for the employee's absence, it may be necessary to pursue recertification. If recertification is not submitted, the leave may be terminated.
- A note from healthcare providers allowing an employee to work will be needed in situations where the worker took a FMLA/CFRA leave for their own serious health concerns. While there will be no second and third opinions allowed in these situation to release the employee to be able to work, a provider of the department can contact the worker's provider for further clarification. This must be done with the permission of the employee.
Have your rights been denied?
If your employer refuses to allow you to take leave for an event that qualifies under the FMLA or you have suffered discrimination or wrongful termination after caring for a family member, it is imperative that you speak to a knowledgeable lawyer right away. Many times an employer can be out for themselves and fail to provide workers the rights they deserve. Legal action is necessary in many of these cases and should be taken to avoid unethical treatment from an employer. It is important to first speak with an attorney about your case so they can help determine if there is sufficient reason to move forward.
We understand that family comes first and most people work to live, not live to work. Employment law is lenient in this area to give room for situations such as these because many times life can throw you a curve ball and temporarily change your priorities, especially when it comes to caring for someone in poor health. If your work is not abiding by the terms of the FMLA then it is in your best interest to obtain experienced legal counsel to fight for your rights and enforce the written law.