FMLA Basic Provisions
- The FMLA mandates that each employee receive unpaid time away from his position of up to 12 weeks -- or 26 weeks if caring for a member of the armed forces -- to deal with a medical situation. Upon returning from their leave, employees must be returned to their previous position or a similar one. To qualify for reinstatement, however, a leave must incapacitate a worker for three or more days or be part of treatment for an ongoing illness. Employees can't merely leave a job and expect to return if qualifications aren't met.
FMLA Notification Requirements
- Employees must provide 30 days' notice for scheduled events, such as a birth or scheduled surgery. For unforeseen illnesses and other similarly unscheduled events, employees must provide their employers notice as soon as practically possible. Notification must contain enough information for an employer to understand that the condition can be covered by FMLA, although employees don't need to specifically mention FMLA rights in their request. An employer has five business days to rule whether the request qualifies for FMLA leave and may require doctor certification from employees to make this determination. Employees who refuse or fail to provide requested medical documentation aren't covered by FMLA protections.
Filing a Complaint
- Employees who believe they followed FMLA guidelines to receive protection for their leaves may file a complaint with their local U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division by telephone, in writing or in person at their local Labor Department branch. Complaints must contain all alleged breaches of FMLA protections as well as the dates the alleged infractions occurred. Employees must file a complaint within two years of the violation. If the violation showed a willful disregard for the law, an employee has three years to file the complaint.
- In some circumstances, an employer is allowed to fire an employee when she returns from FMLA leave. If the employee didn't meet notification or certification requirements for the leave, FMLA coverage doesn't apply. Similarly, an employee must have worked in the position for 12 months to qualify for FMLA coverage of the leave of absence. Employees are entitled to only 12 weeks of job-protected leave each year, except for the 26-week military exception, so termination of an employee who exceeds those limits is legal.