By: Kelly Fitzgerald
If you’re the human resource manager of a large company, then you’re no doubt becoming increasingly acquainted with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for employees who experience an FMLA qualifying event.
FMLA guidelines are many, complicated and often ambiguous. But with the right information, they can be effectively navigated.
The first step an employer must take is to determine if they are a “covered employer,” and thus required to provide the law’s protections to eligible employees under the act. According to the law, a covered employer is any company that employed 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year.
If, in fact, you are a covered employer, it’s crucial to determine if your company has eligible employees who are entitled to take FMLA leave. An eligible employee is one who has worked for the employer for at least 12 months and has at least 1,250 hours of service during the 12-month period immediately preceding the leave. In a typical 52-week work year, that means anyone who averaged less than 25 hours a week is ineligible for FMLA leave. In addition, the employee must work within a 75-mile radius of a location where at least 50 employees are employed.
To show an example, a company that employs 25 individuals in one office, and 25 individuals in a second office more than 75 miles away, is not required to provide FMLA leave to employees at either location. Neither is a company of 50 employees that has hired five of those employees only in the past month
While these are the primary requirements, eligibility can become confusing, particularly when multiple locations, State Leave Laws or irregular employee schedules are involved. If there is any doubt about whether or not a company is required to provide FMLA leave, consultation with a firm such as Creative Benefits is advised to avoid unnecessary leave approval or audits.
About the author: Kelly Fitzgerald is an Account Manager and FMLA Specialist with Creative Benefits, Inc. She assists clients with Family and Medical Leave Administration and provides consultative services to employers and their employees.