Per the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act), every employee, irrespective of their designation and the industry they serve, is eligible for a 12-week unpaid and job-protected leave for 12 months under certain circumstances.
However, not all employees receive FMLA benefits. As a result, they either lose their job or bear other consequences, such as loss of employment benefits. Therefore, every employee needs to understand what FMLA and Paid Family Leave acts are to protect their rights and to get the help they deserve.
This detailed article will explain these acts and what to do if your employer does not abide by the 1993 act.
What Does FMLA Mean, and What is its Purpose?
FMLA stands for Family and Medical Leave Act, and it is a labor law that requires employers of a certain size to provide their workers with unpaid leave for serious family health situations and issues.
Qualified reasons may also include pregnancy, adoption, foster care placement, military leave, and family or personal leaves. The act also provides the continuation of coverage of healthcare insurance and job protection while the employee is on voluntary off.
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 is intended to provide employees with family’s ample time and resources they need to deal with certain circumstances, such as family emergencies.
The U.S Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, or DOL-WHD, is in charge of this program and ensures that all employers that fall under this program adhere to its guidelines.
Understanding the FMLA Act in Detail
President Bill Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act into law in 1993. The passage of this act was an acknowledgment by the federal government of changes in the United States families, the labor force, and the workplace.
For example, the proliferation of households in which both parents work or single-parent households and the expectations of both workers and employers.
As per the act, a qualified employee is eligible for taking up to 12 weeks of unpaid leaves for reasons such as childbirth/pregnancy, personal illness, adoption, or illness of an immediate family member.
The employee also qualifies for medical and family situations, including military leave or foster care. For example, if the employee is a son, daughter, or spouse of the service member, they can take up to 26 weeks of leave.
Furthermore, the qualified employee who takes off from work under the FMLA act is job-protected and can return to the same designation held before the leave begins. The act also says if the same designation is not available, the employer must provide the qualified employee with a position that is substantially equal in benefits, pay, and responsibility.
What is the Purpose of the FMLA Act?
The Family and Medical Leave Act of the United States seeks to remove the need for employees to choose between their families and their jobs. Thus, enabling them to balance employment security while caring for their spouses, children, and other family members.
Typically, it impacts women in particular by recognizing the outsized roles they plan in caring for their families because it may have a significant effect on their job.
For instance, the act allows them to take leaves to give care to a newborn or to foster an adopted child with the assurance that they can return to their job afterward.
The act is not just limited to women but is purposeful for men as well to help them serve their roles in their families, such as caregiving. Here’s the purpose of the FMLA act for employees in New York and other states of the country.
- To entitle workers to take reasonable work offs for medical reasons or for reasons like the adoption of a child, birth, and for giving care to a spouse, parent, or someone else in the family who has a serious physical or mental condition.
- To balance the needs of the employee’s family with the demands of the workplace in order to promote economic security and stability of families while preserving family integrity and promoting national interests.
- To accomplish the aforementioned purposes in a proper manner that accommodates the legitimate interests of the employers.
- To promote the goal of equal employment opportunity for men and women, pursuant to such clause.
What is a “Serious Health Condition” as per the FMLA 1993 Act?
The act stresses serious health conditions, and the conditions must meet the act’s requirements for it to enforce properly. As per the act, a serious health condition is a mental or physical disability or condition that prevents you from performing your duties and responsibilities in your job for more than three consecutive days.
For the employee to qualify for the leave, the serious health condition requires one of the following:
- Two or more treatments by the healthcare provider within a span of 30 days of whatever prevented you from fulfilling your duty as an employee.
- Overnight stay in the hospital or any medical facility.
- At least one treatment by a healthcare provider within 30 days of whatever prevented you from fulfilling your duty as an employee.
What is Paid Family Leave Program in New York?
Paid Family Leave was made mandatory in New York on 1 January 2018, and qualified employers must adhere to its guidelines. Almost all employees working in the state are eligible for paid family leaves, and employers must provide such paid leave to their workers so that they can take care of their families in the circumstances such as medical emergencies.
The program allows employees to take paid time off from work for up to 12 weeks while receiving 67 percent of their pay, up to a cap. The program includes family members, such as:
- Spouse of any gender
- Domestic partners, irrespective of their gender
- Siblings (starting on January 1, 2023)
Serious health conditions such as injuries, illnesses, disabilities, and impairments that involve inpatient care in a medical facility such as a hospital or continuing long-term treatment qualify for this program.
Temporary and minor health conditions such as flu, upset stomach, earaches, and cold do not qualify for paid family leave and there is no such temporary medical leave for such conditions.
Employers in New York can allow their employers to take accrued paid vacation leave to earn a full salary. However, they cannot require the employees to take sick leave or vacation for paid family leave.
Who Qualifies for the Paid Family Leave?
Not every employee working in New York qualifies for Paid Family Leave. To qualify for it, an employee must work 20 hours or more per week for six consecutive months (26 weeks).
Employees who regularly work less than 20 hours per work also become eligible for paid family leave after the 175th non-consecutive working day.
New York employers must provide opt-out PFL waivers for employees who are not expected to be eligible for PFL coverage.
What Benefits Does the Family Paid Leave Come Along With?
As per federal and state law, employers must provide qualified employees with paid medical leave. Besides the paid leave, an employee must also receive the following:
Employment and Benefits Protection
An employer must ensure that the employee gets back to the same position after returning from leave. If not the same position, any other position with similar pay and other employment benefits.
Employees, when on paid family leave, must receive all health insurance benefits they used to receive while working. In a nutshell, the terms of the insurance must be the same when the employee is on paid leave, as per law.
Other Employment Benefits
Other than job protection and continued health protection, the employee must receive other employment benefits as mentioned in the employment contract.
Has your employer refused to provide these benefits even when you qualify for them? Hire the best labor law attorneys in New York with Levine and Blit and get all benefits you deserve. Call us at 212-967-3000 for a free case evaluation.
Important Provisions and Exceptions of the Family and Medical Leave Act, 1993
The important provisions of this 1993 act are as the following:
Provision for Employees
An employee who is working under a qualified employer in New York is eligible for leave under the FMLA act if they have worked at the business for 1,250 hours or a 1-year time frame.
The employee in question should likewise work at a site in which the employer has more than 50 employees within a radius of 75-mile. All these prerequisites are laid down in the Family and Medical Leave Act 1993.
Provision for the Employers
Not every employer in New York state is required to provide all workers serving in the company with family or medical leave. As per federal law, an employer is only required to provide this leave to an eligible employee.
The provision affects every business in New York with fifty or more employees or businesses that engage in interstate commerce.
Returning to Work
When an employee returns to work from a leave under FMLA, they are entitled to be restored to the former position or an equivalent job with similar benefits, pay, and other benefits.
In the act, it is mentioned that the leave should not result in the loss of any employment benefit to which the employee in question was entitled before taking the leave.
However, certain employees may be rejected for the restoration of their job if providing them with the same position and employment benefits would result in grievous and considerable economic harm to the employer.
Although, it is essential for the employer not to let this situation arise, especially for any of the key employees.
A key employee is someone who belongs to the highest-paid ten percent of the employees, residing within a seventy-five-mile radius.
Exceptions of the 1993 Act
The provisions of this act do not apply to the employees and employers under the following conditions:
- Employers with less than 50 employees.
- Part-time employees who have worked with an organization for less than 1,250 hours during a 1-year tenure preceding the paid vacation and leave.
- Elected officials such as presidents of unions if they are not an employee
- Employees who fail to apply for leave under this act.
- The act does not grant leave to employees for a routine check-up
Which Department Administers the FMLA and Paid Family Leave Act?
The FMLA Act of 1993 plays a crucial role in administering and granting leaves to workers in New York and other states relating to serious medical conditions and important family obligations.
If an employer violates the employee’s rights under this act, then the employee in question can seek remedies under the provisions of this act.
The United States of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division administers this act and ensures that all employers implement it properly. If an employee thinks that their rights are violated by the employer, they can file a complaint at WHD with the help of an employment attorney.
At Levine and Blit, we can help you evaluate the circumstances of the situation while helping you file a complaint. Call us at 212-967-3000 to know more about what you can do and to get all the employment benefits you deserve.
How to Request Leave Under the Family and Medical Leave Act
Although, the process of applying for leave is the same for all states. However, there are some different aspects you need to know. Below we have explained the process for applying for family and medical leave in New York.
Request for Leave
Although the employee is not required to specifically ask for Family and Medical Leave, it is essential for them to provide sufficient information to the employer regarding the leave, such as its reason and more.
Wait for Approval
After submitting the required information, the employee must wait for the approval. After getting the approval, the employee needs to mention the condition for the leave.
Complete the Formalities
There might be some formalities depending on the employer, and the employee must complete them if possible.
Lack of sufficient information, such as not providing accurate details to the employer, might fail to protect the leave, and it may not qualify under FMLA.
What to Do If Your Employer Isn’t Abiding by the 1993 FMLA Act?
Even after meeting all the requirements, some employers may reject the leave application resulting in loss of employment benefits for the employee. However, the law and the FMLA act prohibit employers from conducting such behavior.
If your employer has rejected your leave application under the FMLA, you can take the following steps:
Ensure that You Qualify for the Leave
In most cases, the reason behind the rejection of a leave application is not providing enough details. You should ensure that you are providing all required details to the employer, such as the reason for taking the leave and medical prescriptions.
Talk to the HR
Talk to the HR or other authorities in your company that deal with leaves and similar things. You can ask them to provide you with all the specific details required to apply for leaves under the FMLA act. One thing to note here is that you cannot apply for leaves under FMLA directly, and only the employer has this authority.
Contact a Family and Medical Leave Lawyer
If your employer has refused to take you back into the organization after you have returned from the leave that qualifies for FMLA, you can file a case against it. Contact a New York employment lawyer that is well aware of all labor and employment laws to discuss the details of your case.
The attorneys will help you file a complaint with the right department while representing you in front of the judges.
Some Important Facts About the Family and Medical Leave Act
Below we have covered some important facts about the FMLA act that every employee working in New York should know about. These facts will help you understand the act better while reducing the risks of its violation by your employer.
It Covers All Workers and Not Just Parents
Employees that aren’t parents or are childless are also covered under this act since they can take leaves to take care of someone in the family (medical reasons).
The Definition of Family is Broad as Per this Act
The act defines a family member as a domestic partner, spouse, sibling, child, grandchild, grandparent, and any other association by blood or affinity that is equal to a family relationship.
All Types of Employment are Covered
All employees in any type of job will be eligible for leaves under the FMLA act. This includes indirect employees, direct employees, public and private sector employees, people working with local educational agencies and other workers receiving unemployment benefits.
Employment Benefits Will Not Change
During the leave, the employee does not have to worry about any change in employment benefits, Since the act requires the employer to let the employee back into the same position after the leave tenure ends.
Contact Levine and Blit for All FMLA and Paid Family Leave Issues
If your employer has refused to take you back into the organization because of the leaves you took, you can take legal action against it.
At Levine and Blit, we can tell you if you qualify under FMLA and Paid Family Leave by evaluating the situation. If things are in your favor, we can help you file a complaint with the respective authorities.
Our professional employment and labor law attorneys handle all the paperwork, so you don’t have to stress about anything.
Call us at 212-967-3000 for a free case evaluation, and let us help you with everything you need.