Emory Report

February 7, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 20

Human Resources

Q & A on the Family Medical Leave Act

What is FMLA and what is its purpose?

FMLA is the acronym for the Family and Medical Leave Act, which became law in 1993. It is a federally mandated benefit intended to promote the development of the family unit and enhance worker productivity.

What circumstances qualify an employee for FMLA leave?

FMLA leave may be requested for the following reasons:

  • the birth of a child, or to care for the newborn child.
  • the placement of a child for adoption or foster care.
  • to care for the employee's spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition.
  • because of the employee's own serious health condition that renders the employee unable to perform one or more essential job functions.

What defines a serious health condition?

The FMLA defines a serious health condition as an illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition that involves:

  • inpatient care in a hospital, hospice or residential medical care facility.
  • continuing treatment by a health care provider.

What does the FMLA do?

The FMLA was established to:

  • provide employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per rolling 12 months for their own serious health condition or that of an immediate family member. The employee begins FMLA leave by using all his or her paid accrued leave (sick leave, vacation and floating holidays). The remainder of the leave will be unpaid. The total FMLA leave (a combination of accrued paid leave and remaining unpaid leave) cannot exceed 12 weeks.
  • provide the employee with job and seniority protection.
  • provide the employee with a continuation of health benefits under the same terms as prior to the leave.

What are an employee's responsibilities in requesting FMLA leave?

The employee's responsibilities include:

  • when leave is foreseeable, the employee must notify the supervisor in writing 30 days before the leave is to begin. If not foreseeable, the employee should provide notification as soon as practical.
  • the employee is required to provide certification from a health care provider.
  • if adopting or placing a child for foster care, appropriate documentation from the court is required.
  • periodically during the FMLA leave, an employee may be requested to provide status reports.
  • a "fitness for duty" statement from the health care provider is required before the employee can return to work.

Since FMLA leave is an unpaid leave of absence, can I apply my accrued paid leave to my time away from work?

Yes. University employees' accrued sick leave, vacation leave and floating holidays are inclusive of FMLA leave. FMLA leave starts by using your accrued paid leave and, once your accrued paid leave is used, moves into an unpaid leave. The combined paid and unpaid FMLA leave cannot exceed 12 weeks.

Example: Your doctor certifies that it is medically necessary for you to be away from work for 12 weeks. If you have four weeks of accrued paid leave (sick leave, vacation leave and floating holidays) available, you exhaust that first. Your remaining eight weeks of FMLA leave would be unpaid.

How does FMLA leave affect my benefits coverage?

An employee on family and medical leave may continue participation in health, dental, life and BeneFlex plans. While on a paid status, benefit premiums will continue to be deducted from bimonthly or monthly paychecks. If an employee is on unpaid leave, the employee will be responsible for paying his or her premiums.

Can I request FMLA leave more than once?

Yes, but Emory reduces the current FMLA leave request by any previously used FMLA leave over a rolling 12-month period, measured backward from the date leave is to begin.

Example: If you have taken eight weeks of leave during the past 12 months, an additional four weeks of leave is available. If you used four weeks beginning Feb. 1, 2000, four weeks beginning June 1 and four weeks beginning Dec. 1, you would not be eligible for any additional FMLA leave until Feb. 1, 2001.

What happens to my job while on FMLA leave?

Your position must be held while you are out on FMLA leave. If you return to work within the 12 weeks, you will be reinstated to the same job or substantially equivalent job, which includes equivalent shift, pay, responsibility, department and benefits. If you do not return within the 12-week period, Emory is not required to hold your position under FMLA.

For more information about FMLA, contact Employee Relations at 404-727-7625.

--Wynell Lauver is communications coordinator for Human Resources.

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