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Does a worker’s situation qualify them for FMLA leave?

On Behalf of | May 6, 2023 | Employment Law |

A company depends on reliable staffing to fulfill its obligations to others and keep its costs predictable. Unfortunately, employees are notoriously unreliable and may take extended leaves of absence with little warning or consideration for the impact that their leave might have on their employer.

Oftentimes, someone’s inability to work can eventually cost them their job. Employers cannot keep someone on the payroll indefinitely if they cannot reliably show up for their shifts. Of course, there are scenarios in which the law requires that a company accommodate workers, including scenarios that involve family issues and medical matters. For example, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) creates scenarios in which employers do need to allow a worker to take unpaid leave. When does an employee become eligible for FMLA leave?

After a lengthy employment arrangement

New hires generally don’t have the option of taking FMLA leave. The employee typically needs to have worked for the company for at least 12 months, but those months do not need to be consecutive. They simply need to have accrued 1,250 work hours in the 12 months before asking for leave. The employer generally needs to be large enough to accommodate them as well, which usually means 50 workers within 75 miles.

After experiencing qualifying events

Only specific circumstances give someone the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the FMLA. An individual experiencing a health issue could qualify for leave while they recover from surgery or undergo invasive treatment. The family aspect of the act allows someone to take leave either for the addition of a new child to the family or to provide support for a loved one with health issues.

Those requesting leave to support a loved one with health issues can typically only rely on the FMLA if the person in need of support is their spouse, child or parent. If that person requiring support is a military service member, the employee could potentially receive up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave.

If someone’s situation does not meet both of these standards, they probably do not qualify for FMLA leave. Employers have to carefully evaluate leave requests before responding to avoid compliance errors and a hostile relationship with staff members. Seeking legal guidance to learn more about the FMLA and other key employment laws can help a company fulfill its obligations to its workers.