FMLA Leave Is a Great Benefit for Employees, but Who Is Eligible to Provide It?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees to take unpaid leave for a specific family matter or medical reason for up to 12 weeks with guaranteed job and health insurance protection. This means that eligible employees receive the same group health insurance coverage during their leave and return to their former position with the same benefits, salary, and other terms of employment.
However, FMLA only pertains to employees that are eligible for FMLA leave and work under an employer that is equally eligible to provide it. As an employer, it’s important to know the eligibility requirements of FMLA leave and the procedures that must follow in order to avoid fines or employee lawsuits.
Qualifications for Employers to Be Eligible to Offer FMLA Leave
Not every employer is eligible to offer employees FMLA leave. The U.S. Department of Labor defines the employer eligibility of FLMA leave as follows:
- Private-sector employers, with 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year, including a joint employer or successor in interest to a covered employer;
- Public agencies, including a local, state, or Federal government agency, regardless of the number of employees it employs; or
- Public or private elementary or secondary schools, regardless of the number of employees it employs.
If an employer does qualify to provide FMLA to its employees, the Department of Labor requires an FMLA poster be displayed in the office. The poster informs employees of their rights under the act and how to file a complaint to the Wage and Hour Division. Failure to display the FMLA poster will result in a penalty fine of $173 per violation.
Qualifications for Employees to Receive FMLA Leave
For an employee to be eligible to request FMLA leave, according to the Department of Labor, the employee must:
- Have worked at the company for more than 12 months
- Have worked at least 1,250 hours 12 months prior to taking leave
- Work at a location where their employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of the worksite
Even if an employee is eligible for FMLA leave, he or she must have a valid reason to request leave, which can include:
- To take care of a newborn or newly adopted child
- To take care of an immediate family member that has a serious health condition
- Inability to work due to a serious health condition
Notifying an Employee of Their Eligibility
The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor has notice requirements regarding an employee’s eligibility that must be followed to be in compliance with the FMLA. Failure to meet these requirements can result in penalty fines in the event of an audit or a lawsuit from an employee. To comply, an employer must provide an employee that is requesting FMLA leave with an eligibility notice that is either oral or in writing that:
- Is provided within five business days of the initial request for leave or when the employer is informed that an employee may have to leave for a qualified FMLA reason.
- Informs the employee of his or her eligibility status. If the employee is not eligible for FMLA leave, the employer must include a reason why.
If the employee is eligible for FMLA leave, the employer must complete Form WH-381, which provides the employee notice of eligibility and rights and responsibilities. The form informs employees of their obligations when using FMLA leave and the consequences if those obligations are not met.
Stay in Compliance with the FMLA with Employer Support Services
The complexity of the FMLA procedures and handling the emotional stress of an employee in the situation where FMLA leave is needed can be a lot to handle. If your company is eligible to provide employees FMLA leave, having extra HR support can help. For more information, contact a representative at ESS today.