What is the Family and Medical Leave Act Offer?
If you’ve never had to take a consistent amount of time off work before, you may not know that in the early 1990s, the Family and Medical Leave Act FMLA was created to help ease the financial strain on employees while they needed time off.
Eligible employees can take up to twelve weeks off unpaid, with the understanding that the same level of job that they took leave from will be available for them when they return to work. Group health benefits will also remain uninterrupted while the employee takes time off.
What Does Washington State Do in Addition to FMLA?
Washington state also has a Family Leave Act (FLA) that offers additional benefits to those provided through FMLA. For example, pregnant women and new mothers have more help through the state level and the regulations provided by the Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC).
Through these added benefits, pregnant women who have just given birth are treated the same as other employees who are sick or temporarily disabled. The allowed amount of leave will be determined based on the woman’s specific condition and needs.
It is also important to note that if a woman is not eligible for FMLA, but her employer has eight or more employees, she may qualify for the benefits outlined in WSHRC.
Who is Eligible for FMLA?
Employees’ eligibility requirements are that they have worked 1,250 hours during the prior 12 months before their leave request and must work for an eligible employer.
The employee must also work for an employer that has more than 50 employees within 75 miles and has worked for this employer for at least 12 months. The 12 months don’t need to be consecutive to be applicable.
What Qualifies for FMLA in Washington?
There may be several reasons that employees may benefit from FMLA throughout their careers. One of the most common reasons for utilizing these benefits is for the birth of a child or to have bonding time with that child.
Another common reason is to take time off to care for an immediate family member, such as a parent, spouse, or child with a severe health condition.
Parents who adopt or foster a child are also eligible for FMLA to bond with the child.
If the employee has a severe medical condition and needs significant time off to address their health issues.
Coverage also exists for those with an immediate family member on active duty who are called to action.
What Qualifies as a Serious Health Condition?
Pregnancy is one of the most common health conditions that qualify as serious and, therefore, can be covered with FMLA. Pregnancy-related health issues include bed rest, morning sickness that leads to incapacity, and prenatal medical care.
Other common severe health conditions are situations that lead to an overnight stay or more in the hospital, such as surgery, heart attack, stroke, and other significant health issues.
Conditions that require three consecutive days or more to care for or leave the patient incapacitated, whether through multiple or original appointments and follow-ups.
Chronic conditions may require multiple periods where you or a family member are incapacitated or require treatment several times a year. Examples may be chemo treatments, dialysis, and more.
Is My Job Safe?
According to FMLA standards, employees who utilize benefits can return to the same job duties upon returning or a nearly identical job.
The nearly identical job must involve the same responsibility, effort, and same level of skill. The job must also involve the same work schedule, and within a similar distance, so the commute to work is relatively the same for the employee. The position must also net the same amount of pay, including overtime availability, bonuses, and more.
The position must also allow the employee to receive the same benefits they were receiving before receiving FMLA benefits. This includes vacation, sick leave, life and health insurance, and more.
Part of the FMLA regulations states that employee that utilizes FMLA will have a career waiting for them when they return. This can make it difficult for some employers as they have to keep up operation standards and productivity, hence the reason for allowing a job with similar benefits or pay to be available upon return if the employer needs to fill the original position during the absence. By allowing for a similar job to be available for the employee, the employer can continue to run their business effectively while the employee utilizes the full benefits available to them through FMLA.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
In a perfect world, FMLA benefits are available and utilized to care for one’s health and that of their loved ones. In some cases, employers may deny benefits or otherwise inhibit employer from using the resources available to them for unacceptable reasons.
If this is the case, you can utilize the skills and compassion of an experienced lawyer to help ensure you are protected. An experienced lawyer can help establish whether or not your employer has legal rights to deny or inhibit your FMLA benefits or ensure that your request for benefits follows standard guidelines.
If employment law has been violated, you can utilize a trusted family law lawyer to represent you in court and protect your rights through FMLA.
Contact our office today at (360) 926-9112 with any questions regarding your FMLA questions. We are happy to help you ascertain whether or not your rights have been violated or discover other ways we can help you and your family during this time.