What’s the Best Way to Handle FMLA Leave Requests?
Answers from a Hoffman Estates Attorney
Since 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act (or FMLA) has provided both employers and employees with important rights in regards to taking time off to attend to needs outside the workplace. In the modern workplace, it is one of the most influential and common examples of employment law and business law.
The FMLA offers benefits to employers and employees alike. However, to protect themselves from staffing shortages and abuse of the law, it is essential that employers know their own rights and powers for granting FMLA leave.
Employees must meet certain requirements to apply for FMLA. An individual must:
Work within 75 miles of an office or worksite where the employer employs at least 50 people.
Work for the company for at least 12 months before applying for FMLA leave.
- Work at least 1,250 hours (effectively 24 hours a week) during the 12 months before the date that FMLA leave is supposed to begin.
Additionally, there are only certain reasons for which an individual may use FMLA. Common reasons include:
Birth and care for an employee’s child within one year of the child’s birth
Receiving a child through adoption or foster care
Caring for an immediate family member (spouse, child, parent, sibling) affected by a serious health problem
Caring for the employee’s own serious health condition that obstructs her ability to perform essential job functions
- Any needs resulting from an employee’s spouse, child or parent being on active military duty or being called to duty
Granting or Denying Leave
An employee is typically expected to give at least 30 days notice for using their FMLA leave, unless the need for the leave arose suddenly and without foreknowledge. Although the employee does not need to mention the intent to use FMLA leave, he is legally obligated to provide notice in addition to stating a qualifying reason for taking the leave.
Once you receive the request, you are required to respond within five days. The response must state the employee’s eligibility for FMLA leave and notify the employee of her rights and responsibilities under the law.
Depending on the circumstances, you may need to require the employee to certify the reason for taking the leave. You can use forms available from the Department of Labor. These forms are certified by a healthcare provider who is treating the employee or employee’s family member’s injury or illness.
When you received proper notice and all the requisite forms, you can grant or deny the request. The Department of Labor offers a model Designation Notice that you may use to notify the employee of the status of their request.