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FMLA Frequently Asked Questions


General

(Q) What does the Family and Medical leave act provide?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave a year, and requires group health benefits to be maintained during the leave as if employees continued to work instead of taking leave. Employees are also entitled to return to their same or an equivalent job at the end of their FMLA leave.

The FMLA also provides certain military family leave entitlements. Eligible employees may take FMLA leave for specified reasons related to certain military deployments of their family members. Additionally, they may take up to 26 weeks of FMLA leave in a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness.

Eligibility

(Q) Who can take FMLA leave?

In order to be eligible to take leave under the FMLA, an employee must:

  • work for a covered employer;
  • have worked 1,250 hours (Tulane University requires 975) during the 12 months prior to the start of leave;
  • work at a location where the employer has 50 or more employees within 75 miles; and
  • have worked for the employer for 12 months. The 12 months of employment are not required to be consecutive in order for the employee to qualify for FMLA leave. In general, only employment within seven years is counted unless the break in service is (1) due to an employee’s fulfillment of military obligations, or (2) governed by a collective bargaining agreement or other written agreement.

Please note: Employees of Tulane University will satisfy the regular hours worked requirement when they have worked 975 work hours, not 1250 during the 12 months prior to the start of leave.

Unpaid leave

(Q) Is my employer required to pay me when I take FMLA leave?

The FMLA only requires unpaid leave. However, the law permits an employee to elect, or the employer to require the employee, to use accrued paid vacation leave, paid sick or family leave for some or all of the FMLA leave period. Tulane University requires employees to use available sick and or vacation accruals during FMLA leave.

Qualifying conditions

(Q) When can an eligible employee use FMLA leave?

A covered employer must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12 month period for one or more of the following reasons:

  • for the birth of a son or daughter, and to bond with the newborn child;
  • for the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care, and to bond with that child;
  • to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent – but not a parent “in-law”) with a serious health condition;
  • to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition; or
  • for qualifying exigencies arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status as a member of the National Guard, Reserves, or Regular Armed Forces.

The FMLA also allows eligible employees to take up to 26 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a “single 12-month period” to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness.

Birth and bonding

(Q) Are there any restrictions on when an employee can take leave for the birth or adoption of a child?

Leave to bond with a newborn child or for a newly placed adopted or foster child must conclude within 12 months after the birth or placement. The use of intermittent FMLA leave for these purposes is subject to the employer’s approval. Tulane University does permit intermittent leave to bond with newborns or newly placed child(ren).

Intermittent/reduced leave schedule

(Q) Does an employee have to take leave all at once or can it be taken periodically or to reduce the employee’s schedule?

When it is medically necessary, employees may take FMLA leave intermittently – taking leave in separate blocks of time for a single qualifying reason – or on a reduced leave schedule – reducing the employee’s usual weekly or daily work schedule. When leave is needed for planned medical treatment, the employee must make a reasonable effort to schedule treatment so as not to unduly disrupt the employer’s operation.

(Q) Can an employer change an employee’s job when the employee takes intermittent or reduced schedule leave?

Employees needing intermittent/reduced schedule leave for foreseeable medical treatments must work with their employers to schedule the leave so as not disrupt the employer’s operations, subject to the approval of the employee’s health care provider. In such cases, the employer may transfer the employee temporarily to an alternative job with equivalent pay and benefits that accommodate recurring periods of leave better than the employee’s regular job.

Serious health condition

(Q) What is a serious health condition?

The most common serious health conditions that qualify for FMLA leave are:

  • conditions requiring an overnight stay in a hospital or other medical care facility;
  • conditions that incapacitate you or your family member (for example, unable to work or attend school) for more than three consecutive days and have ongoing medical treatment (either multiple appointments with a health care provider, or a single appointment and follow-up care such as prescription medication);
  • chronic conditions that cause occasional periods when you or your family member are incapacitated and require treatment by a health care provider at least twice a year; and
  • pregnancy (including prenatal medical appointments, incapacity due to morning sickness, and medically required bed rest).
Certification

(Q) Am I required to prove that I have a serious health condition?

An employer may require that the need for leave for a serious health condition of the employee or the employee’s immediate family member be supported by a certification issued by a health care provider. The employer must allow the employee at least 15 calendar days to obtain the medical certification.

(Q) What happens if my employer says my medical certification is incomplete?

An employer must advise the employee if it finds the certification is incomplete and allow the employee a reasonable opportunity to cure the deficiency. The employer must state in writing what additional information is necessary to make the certification complete and sufficient and must allow the employee at least seven calendar days to cure the deficiency, unless seven days is not practicable under particular circumstances despite the employee’s diligent good faith efforts.

(Q) Can my employer make me get a second opinion?

An employer may require a second or third medical opinion (at the employer’s expense) if he or she has reason to doubt the validity of the medical certification.

(Q) Do I have to give my employer my medical records for leave due to a serious health condition?

No. An employee is not required to give the employer his or her medical records. The employer, however, does have a statutory right to request that an employee provide medical certification containing sufficient medical facts to establish that a serious health condition exists.

(Q) How soon after I request leave does my employer have to request a medical certification of a serious health condition?

Under the regulations, an employer should request medical certification, in most cases, at the time an employee gives notice of the need for leave or within five business days. If the leave is unforeseen, the employer should request medical certification within five days after the leave begins.

An employer may request certification at a later date if he or she has reason to question the appropriateness or duration of the leave.

(Q) May my employer contact my health care provider about my serious health condition?

The regulations clarify that contact between an employer and an employee’s health care provider must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy regulations. Under the regulations, employers may contact an employee’s health care provider for authentication or clarification of the medical certification by using a health care provider, a human resource professional, a leave administrator, or a management official. In order to address employee privacy concerns, the regulations makes clear that in no case may the employee’s direct supervisor contact the employee’s health care provider. In order for an employee’s HIPAA-covered health care provider to provide an employer with individually-identifiable health information, the employee will need to provide the health care provider with a written authorization allowing the health care provider to disclose such information to the employer. Employers may not ask the health care provider for additional information beyond that contained on the medical certification form.

(Q) Must I sign a medical release as part of a medical certification?

No. An employer may not require an employee to sign a release or waiver as part of the medical certification process. The regulations specifically state that completing any such authorization is at the employee’s discretion. Whenever an employer requests a medical certification, however, it is the employee’s responsibility to provide the employer with a complete and sufficient certification. If an employee does not provide either a complete and sufficient certification or an authorization allowing the health care provider to provide a complete and sufficient certification to the employer, the employee's request for FMLA leave may be denied.

(Q) Can employers require employees to submit a fitness-for-duty certification before returning to work after being absent due to a serious health condition?

Yes. As a condition of restoring an employee who was absent on FMLA leave due to the employee’s own serious health condition, an employer may have a uniformly applied policy or practice that requires all similarly situated employees who take leave for such conditions to submit a certification from the employee’s own health care provider that the employee is able to resume work. Under the regulations, an employer may require that the fitness-for-duty certification address the employee's ability to perform the essential functions of the position if the employer has appropriately notified the employee that this information will be required and has provided a list of essential functions. Additionally, an employer may require a fitness-for-duty certification up to once every 30 days for an employee taking intermittent or reduced schedule FMLA leave if reasonable safety concerns exist regarding the employee's ability to perform his or her duties based on the condition for which leave was taken.

(Q) What happens if I do not submit a requested medical or fitness-for-duty certification?

If an employee fails to timely submit a properly requested medical certification (absent sufficient explanation of the delay), FMLA protection for the leave may be delayed or denied. If the employee never provides a medical certification, then the leave is not FMLA leave.

If an employee fails to submit a properly requested fitness-for-duty certification, the employer may delay job restoration until the employee provides the certification. If the employee never provides the certification, he or she may be denied reinstatement.

Call-In Procedure

(Q) Is an employee required to follow an employer’s normal call-in procedures when taking FMLA leave?

Yes. Under the regulations, an employee must comply with an employer’s call-in procedures unless unusual circumstances prevent the employee from doing so (in which case the employee must provide notice as soon as he or she can practicably do so). The regulations make clear that, if the employee fails to provide timely notice, he or she may have the FMLA leave request delayed or denied and may be subject to whatever discipline the employer’s rules provide.

Employer notice

(Q) How soon after an employee provides notice of the need for leave must an employer determine whether someone is eligible for FMLA leave?

Absent extenuating circumstances, the regulations require an employer to notify an employee of whether the employee is eligible to take FMLA leave (and, if not, at least one reason why the employee is ineligible) within five business days of the employee requesting leave or the employer learning that an employee’s leave may be for a FMLA-qualifying reason.

(Q) How soon after an employee provides notice of the need for leave must an employer notify an employee that the leave will be designated and counted as FMLA leave?

Under the regulations, an employer must notify an employee whether leave will be designated as FMLA leave within five business days of learning that the leave is being taken for a FMLA-qualifying reason, absent extenuating circumstances.

Military provisions

(Q) What is covered active duty?

For a member of the Regular Armed Forces, covered active duty or call to covered active duty status means duty during the deployment of the member with the Armed Forces to a foreign country.

For a member of the Reserve components of the Armed Forces (members of the National Guard and Reserves), covered active duty or call to covered active duty status means duty during the deployment of the member with the Armed Forces to a foreign country under a Federal call or order to active duty in support of a contingency operation.

(Q) What is the definition of deployment of a member with the Armed Forces to a foreign country?

Deployment to a foreign country means the military member is deployed to an area outside of the United States, the District of Columbia, or any Territory or possession of the United States. Deployment to a foreign country includes deployment to international waters.

Caregiver leave

(Q) Are families of servicemembers in the Regular Armed Forces eligible for military caregiver leave?

Yes. Military caregiver leave extends to those seriously injured or ill members of both the Regular Armed Forces and the National Guard or Reserves.

(Q) Can I take military caregiver leave if I am the stepson or stepdaughter of the covered servicemember or if I am the stepparent of a covered servicemember?

Yes. Under the FMLA for military caregiver leave, a "son or daughter of a covered servicemember" means a covered servicemember’s biological, adopted, or foster child, stepchild, legal ward, or a child for whom the employee stood in loco parentis, and who is of any age. Under the FMLA for military caregiver leave, a “parent of a covered servicemember” means a covered servicemember’s biological, adoptive, step or foster father or mother, or any other individual who stood in loco parentis to the covered servicemember. This term does not include parents “in law.”

(Q) How much leave may I take to care to for a covered servicemember?

An eligible employee is entitled to take up to 26 workweeks of leave during a “single 12-month period” to care for a seriously injured or ill covered servicemember. The “single 12-month period” begins on the first day the eligible employee takes military caregiver leave and ends 12 months after that date, regardless of the method used by the employer to determine the employee’s 12 workweeks of leave entitlement for other FMLA-qualifying reasons.

(Q) May I take FMLA leave to both care for a covered servicemember and for another FMLA qualifying reason during this “single 12-month period?”

Yes. The regulations provide that an eligible employee is entitled to a combined total of 26 workweeks of military caregiver leave and leave for any other FMLA-qualifying reason in this single 12-month period, provided that the employee may not take more than 12 workweeks of leave for any other FMLA-qualifying reason during this period. For example, in the single 12-month period an employee could take 12 weeks of FMLA leave to care for a newborn child and 14 weeks of military caregiver leave, but could not take 16 weeks of leave to care for a newborn child and 10 weeks of military caregiver leave.

(Q) What type of notice must I provide to my employer when taking FMLA leave because of a qualifying exigency?

An employee must provide notice of the need for qualifying exigency leave as soon as practicable. For example, if an employee receives notice of a family support program a week in advance of the event, it should be practicable for the employee to provide notice to his or her employer of the need for qualifying exigency leave the same day or the next business day. When the need for leave is unforeseeable, an employee must comply with an employer’s normal call-in procedures absent unusual circumstances.

An employee does not need to specifically assert his or her rights under FMLA, or even mention FMLA, when providing notice. The employee must provide “sufficient information” to make the employer aware of the need for FMLA leave and the anticipated timing and duration of the leave.

(Q) How much FMLA leave may I take for qualifying exigencies?

An employee may take up to 12 workweeks of FMLA leave for qualifying exigencies during the twelve-month period established by the employer for FMLA leave. Qualifying exigency leave may also be taken on an intermittent or reduced leave schedule basis.

(Q) How much leave can I take if I need leave for both a serious health condition and a qualifying exigency?

Qualifying exigency leave, like leave for a serious health condition, is a FMLA-qualifying reason for which an eligible employee may use his or her entitlement for up to 12 workweeks of FMLA leave each year. An eligible employee may take all 12 weeks of his or her FMLA leave entitlement as qualifying exigency leave or the employee may take a combination of 12 weeks of leave for both qualifying exigency leave and leave for a serious health condition.

(Q) Can I take qualifying exigency leave when my military member returns from deployment?

Yes. An eligible employee is entitled to take qualifying exigency leave for certain qualifying post-deployment exigencies, including reintegration activities, for a period of 90 days following the termination of the military member’s covered active duty status.

Prohibited acts

(Q) What happens if I am mistreated for taking FMLA leave or if I am denied FMLA leave?

Your employer is prohibited from interfering with, restraining, or denying the exercise of FMLA rights, retaliating against you for filing a complaint and cooperating with the Wage and Hour Division (WHD), or bringing private action to court. You should contact the WHD immediately if your employer retaliates against you for engaging in any of the legally protected activities. For additional information, call our toll-free information and helpline, available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in your time zone, 1-866-4-USWAGE (1-866-487-9243).

Additional Information / Complaints

(Q) Who do I contact if I need additional information or I want to file a complaint?

If you have questions, or you think that your rights under the FMLA may have been violated, you can contact the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) at 1-866-487-9243. You will be directed to the WHD office nearest you for assistance. There are over 200 WHD offices throughout the country staffed with trained professionals to help you. To find the one nearest you, go to http://www.dol.gov/whd/america2.htm.