November 9, 2020, by HR Search & Rescue The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is utilized by more than 20 million Americans every year. This congressional act has enabled millions of Americans to take time away from their jobs without the risk of being replaced. A U.S. employee taking time off under the terms of FMLA will be unpaid, but their position will be protected for when they return. Before opting to take FMLA, it is necessary to be aware of the different requirements for FMLA eligibility. Requirements For FMLA Eligibility First of all, it is important to remember that not all types of leave would qualify under the terms of the FMLA. Only a certain set of health and familial circumstances make a U.S. employee eligible to enter a formal leave notice. Take note: some states offer greater leave benefits, with regards to pay and superior coverage. FMLA leave applies to all 50 states. Employee Must Be With The Company For 12+ Months Employees are only eligible to take FMLA leave if they have worked for their employer for a minimum of 12 months. For most people, this will not be much of an issue. It also accounts for seasonal workers, as the 12-month period does not need to be consecutive. A break in service of at least seven years will invalidate any previous service. The only exception to this rule is if the break in service was due to a prior written agreement or military service. Employees Must Have Worked At Least 1,250 Hours For the purposes of determining FMLA eligibility, ‘hours of service’ means the hours worked by the employee. This does not include any previous time off or vacations, whether the employee was paid during these stints of leave or not. The 1,250-hour requirement must be met within 12 months of the start of the requested FMLA leave period. Employer Who Employs 50+ Employees Within A 75 Mile Radius Of Worksite Public sector workers, such as those working for schools and government agencies, are always eligible for FMLA, as long as they meet the other mentioned requirements. Private sector employers are only required to grant FMLA leave if they employ more than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of their primary worksite. This can create issues because even if a company has a large workforce, a great number of their employees may be ineligible for FMLA. For example, if a company has a primary worksite consisting of 2,000 employees, every employee here is able to claim FMLA leave. On the other hand, if a separate center in another state had only 30 employees, none of these 30 employees would be eligible for FMLA leave. However, many larger companies may have separate internal programs in place to ensure all employees are able to take advantage of the same FMLA leave rights. FMLA Eligibility Notice Employees seeking FMLA leave must provide a formal notice to their employer. If possible, this should be done in advance with at least 30 days’ notice. In an emergency situation, employees should seek to inform their employers as soon as possible. Failure to provide advance notice of a need to take FMLA leave is not grounds for a leave request to be rejected. It is not required to inform an employer of an exact diagnosis. However, employees should provide enough information about their condition/treatment to make it clear to their employers that their illness or familial situation may be FMLA protected. If additional FMLA leave is required, the employee must provide further details on their situation. Again, the employee is not required to reveal a named condition. They can simply tell their employer they need to attend physical therapy every Thursday, for example. FMLA Leave Alternatives The purpose of FMLA was to protect employees who have to take time off from being fired by their employers. If an employee is ineligible for time off, there may be alternatives available. It is recommended the employee speak to their employer. The employer may grant unpaid time off anyway, but the employee’s position will not be legally protected. Larger employers may offer some form of disability pay, or they may allow employees to take vacation/sick days in lieu of FMLA. Employees should speak to their managers or HR departments for more information on FMLA leave alternatives, as every company’s policy will differ. Reach Out To An Experienced HR Consultant Today! The average employee often does not understand the ins and outs of FMLA leave. The same goes for many smaller entrepreneurs who may have never encountered a situation where FMLA leave is requested before. Ensure you are fully prepared for whatever might happen by speaking to an experienced HR consultant. They will be able to inform you of what you need to do to comply with the rules and guarantee your responsibilities are met. Speak to HR Search & Rescue to find out more about how FMLA leave works.