This article is written by Abanti Bose, pursuing B.A.LL.B(H) from Amity University Kolkata, India. This article sheds light on the important provisions, salient features, objectives and exceptions to The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993.
Table of Contents
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was an Act passed by Congress in 1993 concerning labour law in the United States. The Act aims to provide employees with job-protected and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons. It grants employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year while their job is secured. This Act helps employers to prioritize their health and family. The essential medical and family needs include pregnancy, adoption, foster care placement, family or personal illness, etc. This Act is often referred to as the “The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993”, and was signed by President Bill Clinton on 5th August 1993.
The Family and Medical Leave Act covers both private and public sector employees, but certain employees such as elected officials, and highly compensated employees are excluded from this Act. In order to be eligible for the Act, the employee is ought to fulfil certain conditions such as he must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and for 1,250 hours during those 12 months, etc. This Act played a significant role in the legislation of the United States in managing the family life of the employees, meanwhile keeping their job secured.
Salient features of the Act
The salient features of the Act are:
- The Family and Medical Leave Act was passed in 1993 to protect the jobs of employees while they are able to take a leave of absence for personal or family reasons.
- The employee can take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave a year to attend important family matters such as pregnancy, family illness, etc.
- The individual applying for leave must be an employee of that organisation, i.e. he or she must work for a firm that employs at least 50 people working within a 75-mile radius of the worksite.
- The employees must have worked at least for a period of 12 months for the firm or organization to qualify for the leave.
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is governed by the United States America, the Department of Labor.
Objectives of the Act
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 1993 has the following objectives:
- To balance the demand of the workplace with the needs and requirements of the family.
- To grant the employees legitimate leave for the need for family and medical reasons.
- To accomplish the purpose of the Act in a manner protecting the needs and understanding the grievances of the employees.
- To promote the goal of equal employment opportunity for men and women and to prevent workplace discrimination on the basis of sex.
Important provisions of the Act
The important provisions of The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 1993 are:
Provision for the employers
Not every employer is required to provide all the employees working under him with family or medical leave. Federal law lays down that an employer is required to provide the eligible employees with the stated leave under this Act if the employer is either a state, local or federal government agency or a private business engaged in or affecting, interstate commerce that employed fifty or more employees in more than twenty weeks in the current or the previous calendar year.
This provision affects every business in the United States that engages in interstate commerce. The ‘fifty or more employees’ standard includes everyone on the employer’s payroll such as part-time employees, employees on approved leave, and leased or temporary employees.
Provision for the employees
A worker who is working for an employer is qualified for leave under The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provided the person in question worked at the business for a year and for 1,250 hours during the year time frame, immediately preceding the need for leave. The employee should likewise work at a work-site in the United States or the United States, an area at which the business has, in any event, fifty workers inside a 75-mile radius. These prerequisites are laid down in detail by the government in the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, nonetheless, laws of the States may mention other necessary requirements in accordance with the law of the state.
Returning to work
When the employee returns to work from the leave which was granted to him under The Family and Medical Leave Act, he is entitled to be restored to his former position under the organization or an equivalent job, with commensurate pay, benefits, and other terms of employment. It is laid down in the Act that taking leave will not result in loss of any advantage to which the employee was entitled prior to taking the leave, and also it would not be counted against an employee under a ‘no-fault’ attendance policy. Certain employees may be rejected the restoration of their jobs if returning them to their former position would result in considerable and grievous economic harm to the employer. Although most importantly, the employer must not let this situation arise for any of the key employees. A key employee is a salaried employee who is among the highest-paid ten per cent of the employees, residing within a seventy-five-mile radius.
Specification of the leave
An employee will be provided with a maximum of twelve weeks of leave by the employer. The leave may be unpaid, or it may be combined with accrued paid leaves such as sick leave or vacation leave. The eligible employee may take leave for the birth, adoption or placement of a child, to take care of a spouse, minor, etc. or even to handle the employee’s serious health. The employees can be granted leave under the following circumstances:
- Due to a very serious medical condition, the employee is unable to work.
- The employee should apply for the leave under this Act to care for an immediate family member.
- The birth or care of the employee’s child.
- The placement or subsequent care of an adopted or foster care child.
Employees are required to provide advance notice (if possible) and a medical certificate for the leave. An employer providing health insurance is necessary to maintain coverage for an employee on leave on the same terms as he had expected to work.
The process for requesting leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act
In order to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, one must provide the employer with appropriate notice. Although the employee does not need to specifically ask for The Family and Medical Leave Act request leave for his first leave request, he is expected to provide sufficient information to the employer, so the employer is aware that the leave will be covered under FMLA. Once it has been approved for FMLA, the employee needs to mention the condition for the leave. If the employee fails to abide by the above-mentioned conditions, then due to the lack of sufficient information, the leave of the employee might not be protected.
Legal help concerning the Family and Medical Leave Act, 1993 and rights involved
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 1993 plays a very significant role in administering and granting leave to the employees relating to important family obligations or severe medical conditions. If an employee’s rights have been violated under this Act by the employer, then he should seek remedies under the provisions of this Act.
The United States Department of Labour’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is responsible for administering and implementing The Family and Medical Leave Act for the employees. If the employee’s rights have been violated, then he or she could file a complaint at WHD. While filing the complaint the employee should provide necessary details such as his name, address, phone number, the company where he worked, etc. The employer is prohibited from interfering or denying the rights of a worker of exercising FMLA.
Exceptions to the Act
The provisions of the Act do not on apply to the employers and employees under the following conditions:
- The employers who are in business with less than 50 employees,
- Part-time workers who have worked for the organization for less than 1,250 hours during the twelve months preceding the leave and paid vacation,
- Employees who need the leave to care for an elderly relative unless the elderly relative was Acting in loco parentis when the employee turned eighteen,
- Elected officials,
- Employees who apply for the leave to recover from a short-term illness or to care for any family member suffering from a short term illness,
- Employees who apply for the leave under this Act to care for their pets,
- This Act does not grant leave to the employees who need leave for routine medical check-ups.
Significance of the Act
The Acting Deputy Administrator of the Labour Department’s Wage and Division, Mary Beth Maxwell stated that this Act played a significant role in not only recognising the efforts and contributions to the organization by the employee but also helps the employee to care and contribute to the health and well being of their families. The survey has revealed that granting job-protected leaves to the employees have been beneficial to both for the employers as well as the employees. It helps the employees to connect with their family and be present during a crisis without the mental stress of his or her work. The provisions of The Family and Medical Leave Act, such as the specification of the leave, the employees who are eligible to apply for the leave, employers who are eligible to grant the leave, etc. shows that the employees are prone to abide by the law. There have been very few cases of misuse of the Act. Studies have portrayed 90% of the workers returned to their organisations after they leave, which they have been granted by the organisation without little to no risk to business at all.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is an acknowledgement by the Department of Labour of the United States to implement specific changes in the workplace, labour force, the expectation of both employers and employees, etc. In the household where there is a single parent or in houses where both the parents are working, this Act tries to remove the choice of the worker which they would have to take between job security and caring for their children. This Act played a significant role in shaping the family life of the workers, meanwhile protecting their jobs.
Several other significant aspects of the Act:
- The Family and Medical Leave Act grants leave to the employees to take care of their parents and not their in-laws.
- The Act only covers the care for children who are below the age of eighteen years old. If the child is above eighteen years old, then the provision of the Act will only apply if the child is “incapable of self-care” because of a severe disability that impacts the major life activities.
- Under this Act, it is not mandatory to provide the employee’s medical records. However, the employer could request the employee to provide medical records.
- If the employer is covered under The Family and Medical Leave Act and the employee applying for the leave is an eligible employee, then the employer cannot deny the employee’s request as long as the employee complies with the FMLA’s notice and certification requirements.
- The employer cannot fire the employee for alleging a violation of The Family and Medical Leave Act.
- If an employee is eligible for a bonus before applying for the leave under this Act, then the employer cannot use the leave as a justification for denying the bonus.
The Family and Medical Leave Act was signed to promote work-life and family-life balance for American workers. It grants covered employees the right to take twelve-week unpaid leave within a year to take care of oneself, child, immediate family member, etc. More importantly, it grants the employee the right to return to his job after the leave period.
Globalization and economy have significantly impacted the workforce as well as the family life; therefore, this Act plays a very significant role in balancing both the work-life and family-life of the employees. It helps women to lead in the workplace in the meanwhile, also caring for her family. The implementation of The Family and Medical Leave Act played an essential role in the work and family life of the employees. Apart from granting reasonable leave to the employees to take care o their ill-health and family members, it also prevents workplace discrimination, seeks to accommodate legitimate interests of the employees, and promotes equal employment opportunity for men and women.
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