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When do you have to allow a worker to take FMLA leave?

On Behalf of | Nov 2, 2021 | Employment Law |

As an employer, you depend on your employees to show up and do the work that you hired them to perform. When people don’t come to work, even if they have a good reason, their personal issues start to impact your company’s performance.

Sometimes, workers will come to their employer and ask not for a day or two off to recover from an injury but multiple weeks of leave for a significant issue. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a federal law about worker rights, gives workers the right to request up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. When might your company have an obligation to approve an FMLA leave request?

Does the FMLA apply to your business?

If you operate a private sector company, you must meet a baseline number of employees for FMLA rules to apply to your business. You have to have at least 50 employees who have worked for at least 20 workweeks in this year or the year prior. Smaller businesses may struggle to accommodate the unpaid leave of an employee.

Do the worker’s employment records meet requirements?

Even if you have well over 50 employees, the worker requesting FLMA leave may not qualify based on how long they have worked for your company. For a worker to legally claim FLMA leave, they need to have worked at least 1,250 hours for your company within the last 12 months. They also need to have worked for your company for at least 12 months, although those months do not need to be consecutive.

Does the situation qualify under the FMLA?

Even if you have multiple employees and the person requesting leave is a long-term worker, their circumstances need to meet certain criteria for the FMLA to apply.

As the name implies, a worker can ask for an unpaid leave of absence to provide support for a family member experiencing some kind of medical hardship. Workers can ask for unpaid leave to care for their spouses, children or parent. An employee who needs an extended leave of absence to recover from surgery or an injury from a car crash might qualify for FMLA leave as well.

Finally, workers adding a new member to their family may qualify for FMLA leave. Someone can request leave after the birth of a child. FMLA leave is also available to those who have recently had a foster child placed in their home or who have adopted a child into their family.

Learning about your FMLA obligations as an employer can help you comply with employment laws while minimizing any disruptions to your business.