What Responsibilities Does Your Employer Have Under the FMLA?
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires covered employers to provide qualified employees with 12 unpaid days of leave from work during a 12 month period for certain purposes, such as the birth or adoption of a child or caring for an immediate family member with a serious health condition.
Who Does the FMLA Apply To?
The FMLA applies to public employers, such as local, state, and federal government agencies. It also applies to private employers who have at least 50 employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding year and who are engaged in interstate commerce or an industry or activity affecting interstate commerce. For employees to be eligible for FMLA leave, they must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and have worked a minimum of 1250 hours during those 12 months in a location with at least 50 employees.
During the employee’s period of FMLA leave, the employer is required to continue to provide group health care benefits for the employee so long as the employee was enrolled in the plan prior to the leave. This means the employer must continue to pay its portion of the expenses while the employee must continue to pay his or her share of the premiums.
Employers may be entitled to stop paying health care benefits if:
- The employee informs the employer he or she will not be returning to work at the end of the leave period
- The employee does not return to work at the end of the leave period
- The employee is 30 or more days delinquent in making the premium payment
If the employee fails to make his or her premium payment, the employer is required by law to provide the employee with at least 15 days notice that the health insurance coverage will be canceled if payment is not received. Also, in cases where the employee fails to return to work after an FMLA leave, the employer may seek to have the employee repay any health care expenses covered by the employer during the time period.
Once an employee returns to work after the leave period has ended, the employer is required by the FMLA to restore the employee to his or her former job or to an equivalent job, which is defined as one having equivalent pay, benefits and other employment conditions.
However, if the employee meets the definition of a “key employee,” the employer does not have to return the employee to his or her former position if it would cause the employer “substantial and grievous economic injury.” Key employees are highly paid, salaried employees ranking among the highest earning 10 percent of all of the employees within 75 miles of the work site. Employers are required to provide specific types of notices to key employees alerting them to the fact they are considered key employees and whether or not they will be restored to their employment position.
Other Employer Duties
Some of the other duties the FMLA imposes on employers include:
- Employers may not count any time taken as FMLA leave against an employee’s attendance record
- Employers must post a notice of employee rights under the FMLA and approved by the US Secretary of Labor in the workplace
- Employers must provide written notice to employees of their rights under the FMLA and any consequences employees may face if they do not return to work after taking FMLA time
- Employers may not create policies that interfere with an employee’s rights to take FMLA time
- Employers cannot retaliate against employees who take FMLA leave, or participate in internal or external investigations against an employee regarding their FMLA policies
- Employers cannot cancel an otherwise-promised severance package contract as a result of taking FMLA leave.