An Employee’s Guide to FMLA

FMLA family medical leave act concept

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that applies across all fifty states, including Ohio. Under the Act, eligible employees are entitled to take a certain amount of unpaid leave each year for specific reasons. Upon returning to work, the Act ensures that they will return to the same position. It’s important to be aware of the protections afforded by this law and the criteria under which an employee can qualify. Read to learn more about the specifics of this act from our employee’s guide to FMLA.

What is the FMLA?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal labor law that requires covered employers to provide employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave within a 12-month period for certain family and medical reasons. Although employees are not required to take the full amount of leave at once, they must get approval from their employer to take intermittent leave, except in cases involving medical necessity.

FMLA leave may be available to employees under the following situations:

  • The birth of a child
  • The adoption of a child
  • The employee is recovering from a severe medical condition
  • The employee needs time off to care for a seriously ill immediate family member
  • The arrival of a child into foster care

In addition, the Act provides protection for military members and their families. Employees are permitted to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave within a period of 12 months for any “qualifying exigency” arising from a covered servicemember’s active duty or order to active duty in support of a contingency operation. A family member may also qualify for 26 weeks of Military Caregiver Leave to care for a spouse, parent, or child who was a covered servicemember injured in the course of duty.

Who is Covered by the FMLA?

Not every employee has the job protections of the FMLA. Critically, only those who work for a “covered employer” are afforded these rights. In accordance with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), a covered employer is defined as any government agency, as well as public or private schools. Private-sector employers are covered if they employ 50 or more people in 20 or more workweeks in the current or previous calendar year. Critically, once an employer qualifies for coverage in a calendar year, they will remain a covered employer for the coming year.

There are also specific eligibility requirements for employees. In order to be entitled to the protections of the FMLA, an employee must have worked at the company or agency for at least 12 months before the date of the proposed leave of absence. They must have completed at least 1,250 hours of work in that time frame. Importantly, the 12-month time period is not required to be consecutive — seasonal and part-time employees may also qualify.

Additionally, the DOL imposes a requirement that the employee work at a location where the employer employs 50 or more workers within 75 miles of that jobsite as of the date of the proposed leave. This means that even if a company would otherwise be considered a covered employer, an individual employee may not be eligible for FMLA leave if they do not satisfy the 50/75 rule. For remote workers who would otherwise qualify, their worksite is considered the office to which they report.

Are There FMLA Alternatives in Ohio?

While Ohio does not have its own version of the FMLA like other states, the federal law applies to situations involving family and medical leave situations throughout the state. However, for those who do not work for covered employers, there may be other job protected leave options available. There are also certain laws in Ohio that apply to circumstances that are not included in the FMLA.

For example, the FMLA covers leave that takes place following the birth or adoption of a child — but it doesn’t apply to absence taken during pregnancy, unless there are medical complications. In such cases, an employee might be eligible for legal protection under the Ohio Civil Rights Act or the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prohibits the termination of an employee because of pregnancy.

Remedies Available for FMLA Violations

An employee who was subject to an employer’s FMLA violation may be able to recover their damages by taking legal action. The relief granted will depend upon the specific facts of the situation. Damages that may be awarded can include back pay, the value of lost benefits, various monetary losses incurred as a result of the FMLA violation, liquidated damages, front pay, interest, and attorney’s fees. The court may also order that an employee be reinstated to their former position.

Contact an Experienced Ohio Employment Law Attorney

If you were wrongfully terminated in violation of the FMLA or Ohio law, it’s essential to have an experienced advocate on your side who can fight for your rights. Located in Westlake and providing skillful counsel to clients throughout Ohio, employment law attorney Chris Lalak is committed to upholding the rights of employees and obtaining the best possible results in every case. Contact Lalak LLC today to schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation and learn how we can help.

Categories: FMLA