How Employers Should Handle FMLA Leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a US labor law designed to help employees balance their duties at work with the needs of their families. It allows them to tend to family responsibilities, while still ensuring job security. As an employer, it’s important to know how to handle FMLA leave.


The Basics

According to the US Department of Labor (DOL), “The FMLA provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave.” Some common reasons for taking time off include:

  • The birth and care of a newborn child
  • Adoption or foster care
  • The care of a child, spouse or parent with a serious health condition
  • Medical leave for an employee with a serious health condition
  • Family military leave



In order for an employee to be eligible for FMLA leave, they must have been employed by your company for a minimum of 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours during the last year. Besides that, your company must employ a minimum of 50 employees within 75 miles.

If you’re a small business with fewer than 50 employees, this doesn’t apply to you. However, if you employee at least 50 employees and an employee meets eligibility requirements, the following tips will help you navigate your way through the process.


Create an FMLA Policy

It’s vital that you have a formal policy that explains eligibility requirements and governs how employees request leave (e.g. how much notice they need to give). 30 days is usually the standard that most companies ask for. If the situation is unexpected, then employees should give as much notice as possible.


Maintain Documentation

Make sure that you complete all of the necessary paperwork mandated by the DOL. This includes documenting:

  • The family relationship
  • Health condition
  • Designation notice

This is essential for following proper protocol and can protect you in the event of litigation. Visit this link from the DOL for a full list of all forms.


Train Managers

Lawsuits often stem from managers saying or doing the wrong the thing. Therefore, it’s important that your managers have at least a basic understanding of FMLA, how it works and who is eligible. This will empower them to make the right decisions while ensuring that all employees are treated fairly.


Don’t Terminate Employees to Avoid FMLA Leave

Here’s the scenario. An employee has worked for your company for just under a year and is requesting FMLA leave. In order to avoid it, you simply terminate them so that they’re ineligible. This is an ill-advised move and is just asking for a lawsuit.

There’s a good chance that you’ll receive a request for FMLA leave at some point. It’s necessary to understand the fundamentals so that you’ll know how to effectively handle the situation. For a be-all end-all resource on this topic, check out this guide from the DOL. It contains virtually everything you need to know.


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