The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a landmark piece of legislation that gives employees with serious health conditions a sizable amount of leave to take care of themselves.
Employees can also receive leave to care for a family member with a medical condition. It is an important right for American workers, but few people have heard about FMLA.
In fact, one common question we receive is whether federal employees can take advantage of FMLA. Simply put, the answer is yes.
According to the Department of Labor (DOL), FMLA applies to all public agencies, including local, State, and Federal employers.
Read on to learn more about how FMLA works for federal employees. We will run over FMLA’s basic history and take a look at its key provisions.
If you have more questions about FMLA for federal employees, call or contact us online.
A Brief Overview of FMLA
FMLA gives employees up to twelve weeks of leave to deal with a serious health condition or to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
While the leave is unpaid, FMLA guarantees that the employee can keep their job. To receive FMLA leave, an employee must complete a preliminary application form and attach supporting medical evidence.
Although 12 weeks is the maximum amount of leave an employee can receive, not all applications receive that amount.
To receive a full 12 weeks of leave, three requirements need to be met. First, you must not have taken any FMLA leave within the past year.
Second, you must currently be working a full-time position (40 hours or more per week).
Third, you need to have worked at least 1,250 hours at your employer over the previous 12 months.
Finally, your request for 12 weeks of leave must be supported by medical documentation.
In addition to caring for themselves or a family member with a serious health condition, federal employees may also use FMLA:
- For the birth of a son or daughter;
- To take time to bond with a newborn child; and
- To receive a child for a foster care or adoption agency.
In these situations, the FMLA leave must conclude within 12 months of the birth or placement of the child.
What Qualifies As a Serious Health Condition?
Many different situations can constitute a “serious health condition.” Examples include any medical conditions that:
- Force the employee or their family member to stay overnight at a hospital or other healthcare facility;
- Incapacitate or disable the employee or their family member for more than three consecutive and require them to receive ongoing medical treatment; and
- Are chronic and create recurring periods where the employee or their family member are incapacitated.
Pregnancy and organ donation can also be grounds for applying for FMLA leave. So can mental disorders, provided they meet the criteria mentioned above.
FMLA to Care for Covered Service Members
FMLA has an additional provision for individuals who need to care for loved ones who are service members with a serious injury or illness.
If a federal employee’s FMLA request meets this requirement, they can receive up to 26 weeks of leave during a 12-month period rather than 12 weeks. However, the leave will still be unpaid.
Using FMLA Leave and FMLA Leave Protections
Employees can use FMLA leave in a variety of ways. FMLA leave can be used in one 12-week block, in several smaller weekly blocks, or sporadically throughout the year.
In some situations, employees can operate on a reduced leave schedule, which means they use their FMLA leave to work slightly fewer hours over a longer period of time.
While an employee is on FMLA leave, their job is protected. An employer cannot retaliate against the employee for using FMLA.
Nor can the employer terminate or downgrade the employee. The law requires employers to return the employee to the same job or one that is nearly identical to the prior job.
To qualify as a “nearly identical” job, the new job must:
- Offer the same general work schedule;
- Be located at the same worksite or at a nearby worksite that is not significantly further away from the employee;
- Involve the same level of status and authority;
- Incorporate the same or nearly identical duties and responsibilities; and
- Offer identical pay, including premium pay, overtime pay, and bonus opportunities.
The “nearly identical” job must also offer identical employee benefits, such as health insurance, disability insurance, vacation time, sick leave, and retirement benefits.
If You Want to Know Whether FMLA Is an Option for You, Give Us a Call Today
Now that you know that FMLA is an option for federal employees, you might be wondering whether your personal situation qualifies you for FMLA leave.
If that’s the case, don’t leave your future to guesswork. Get legal representation right away by contacting an experienced federal employment lawyer.
At the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, we are not generalists who also happen to take on federal employment cases.
Instead, our entire practice is concentrated on helping civil servants with all kinds of federal employment issues. We have experience with all kinds of situations.
We can give you the advice you need and help you assess your legal options. At every step of the way, you can expect wonderful customer service, making the legal process as painless as possible.
Don’t leave your future up to chance. Call us today or contact us online.