The Family Medical Leave Act or FMLA, which is often applied in conjunction with the California Family Rights Act, provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year.  As an employer, it is critical that you have some familiarity with the basic provisions of the FMLA in order to reduce your risk of accidentally violating your employees’ legal rights and being targeted by a costly and disruptive lawsuit.

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If your business has questions about FMLA compliance, or if an employee has already filed a claim against your company, the experienced employment law attorneys of Bellatrix PC can help.  We work with clients ranging from small start-ups to firmly established corporations.  To arrange for a private consultation, call our law offices at (800) 449-8992 today.

Family Medical Leave Act Compliance and Eligibility

The FMLA does not necessarily apply to each and every entity.  However, businesses must comply with the Act if they fall into any of the following categories:

  • Private sector employers which employ at least 50 employees, within a 75-mile radius, over a span of at least 20 workweeks.
  • Government agencies and public agencies, regardless of how many employees they maintain.
  • Public and private elementary schools, regardless of how many employees they maintain.

If your business meets any of the above criteria, you must offer FMLA leave to qualified employees.  An employee qualifies if he or she has worked for at least 12 months prior to taking leave, with that 12-month period including a minimum of 1,250 work hours.

Some reasons for Family Medical Leave Act leave include when an employee:

  • Gives birth to, fosters, or adopts a child.
  • Needs to take care of an immediate family member who has a serious medical condition. Immediate family members include children, parents, and spouses.
  • Cannot work because he or she suffers from a serious health condition.

What Counts as a Serious Health Condition?

The U.S. Department of Labor frequently references the term “serious health condition” in regard to FMLA eligibility, but what exactly does that cover?  A health condition can be any injury, impairment, or illness, whether it be physical or mental.  However, that condition must involve at least one of the following elements in order to be classified as serious:

  • Any duration of inpatient care (such as a hospital visit).
  • Any absence more than three days long.  This absence must involve ongoing treatment from a doctor or other healthcare provider.
  • Incapacity related to pregnancy or prenatal care.  Employers should also be wary of pregnancy discrimination in these instances.
  • Incapacity caused by a chronic illness, such as diabetes or severe asthma.
  • Long-term or permanent incapacity caused by an illness which cannot be effectively treated, such as Alzheimer’s Disease or terminal illnesses like cancer.
  • Absences caused by multiple treatments, such as multiple rounds of chemotherapy, for a condition which would result in more than three days of absence if left untreated.

Any employee planning to take foreseeable leave under the Family Medical Leave Act must make all reasonable attempts to give advance notice of at least 30 days to the employer.  However, if the leave is unforeseeable, as would be the case in a sudden emergency situation, the employee should give notice to his or her employer “as soon as practicable.”

Expanded Rights for Members of the Military

There is also a military component to FMLA of which employers must be aware, particularly because this area seems to continually expand.  For instance, on October 28, 2009, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, also known as the NDAA.  The NDAA expanded the qualifying circumstances for which eligible employees may take FMLA leave to include the following:

  • Military caregiver leave was extended to include injuries not only incurred in the line of duty, but also aggravations of previous injuries that were incurred in the line of duty.
  • Qualifying exigency leave was expanded to include a wider range of service members and situations.
  • Military caregiver leave, which is commonly referred to as “leave to care for a covered service member,” was expanded to include veterans of less than five years.

Contact Our San Diego FMLA Lawyers

If your business has questions about a possible FMLA compliance matter, or has been served with an employee lawsuit alleging a violation the Family Medical Leave Act, the experienced business defense attorneys of Bellatrix PC may be able to help.  Our high quality yet cost-conscious legal team will conduct a comprehensive investigation into the allegations, and will work closely with your company to formulate aggressive, personalized defense strategies.  We will see your matter through to the end — even if it requires going to court.

To begin discussing your goals and concerns in a private legal consultation, call the employment law lawyers of Bellatrix PC at (800) 449-8992 today.  Our California law offices are located in San Diego and Riverside.

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