Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in Pennsylvania

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in Pennsylvania, Buzgon Davis Law Offices

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Have you ever wondered what the FMLA in Pennsylvania is and whether it applies to you? If the answer is “yes,” then you’ve come to the right place. While most people understand that FMLA deals with taking off of work for medical reasons, there may be confusion regarding eligibility, applicable situations, and how much leave is available.

Other areas of concern to employers and employees include whether FMLA leave is paid, the amount of notice employers require, what constitutes an FMLA violation and steps employees can take to safeguard their FMLA rights. This article addresses all these issues to help you know your rights under the law.

What Is FMLA?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that requires specific categories of employers to provide employees with unpaid leave in specified medical- and family-related instances, including pregnancy, adoption and foster care placement, family or personal illness, or caring for a severely injured service member.

The FMLA protects employees by allowing them to file a complaint, institute a civil action or seek other kinds of remedy against employers who violate their rights, depending on the facts of each case.

Who Can Take FMLA?

A person qualifies to take leave under the family leave act in PA if they:

  1. Work for a “covered employer,” which we’ll explain below.
  2. Have worked for at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months before taking the leave.
  3. Work at a location where the employer has 50 or more employees within 75 miles.
  4. Have worked for the employer for a minimum of 12 months. The 12-month period is not required to be consecutive for the employee to qualify for FMLA leave.

Generally, covered employers are private employers with at least 50 employees for a minimum of 20 workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year. This includes joint employers and successors of covered employers. Public agencies like federal, state and local employers, and secondary and elementary schools — regardless of the number of employees — are also covered under the FMLA.

When Can You Take FMLA?

Eligible employees can take FMLA leave in the following instances:

  1. When the employee is unable to work due to a serious health condition
  2. During the birth of a child and bonding with the newborn
  3. For the placement of a child for adoption or foster care and to bond with that child
  4. To care for an immediate family member, including a spouse, child or parent — but not a parent “in-law” — with a severe health condition
  5. For qualifying situations arising from the fact that the employee’s child, spouse or parent is on covered active duty or called to covered active duty status as a member of the Army Reserve, National Guard or Regular Army
  6. To care for a covered service member with severe injury or illness.

How Much Leave Is Available?

The available leave days are as follows:

  1. FMLA provides 12 workweeks throughout 12 months to eligible employees. In certain circumstances, the 12 workweeks worth of time do not have to be taken consecutively.
  2. In determining whether an employee has 12 workweeks of FMLA remaining, an employer may use any one of the following methods to establish the 12-month period:
    • The calendar year
    • Any fixed 12-month period
    • The 12-month period measured forward
    • A “rolling” 12-month period measured backward
  3. The FMLA also allows eligible employees up to 26 workweeks leave in a “single 12-month period” to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness.

Do You Get Paid for FMLA?

FMLA is unpaid. However, the law allows employees to elect, or employers to require employees, to use accrued paid vacation leave, family or paid sick leave for some or all of the FMLA leave period. If an employee wants to substitute paid leave, they must follow the employer’s standard leave rules. When paid leave is used for a reason covered by the FMLA, the leave FMLA protects the leave.

How Many Days’ Notice Is Required?

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in Pennsylvania, Buzgon Davis Law Offices

When the need to request FMLA leave is foreseeable and notice is practicable, employees are required to provide 30 days advance notice to the employer. The employee must notify the employer as soon as practicable, typically either the same or the next business day, if leave is foreseeable less than 30 days.

When the need for leave is unforeseeable, the employee must give notice to the employer as soon as practicable under the facts and circumstances of the particular case. Employees must comply with the employer’s standard and traditional notice and procedural conditions for requesting leave in the absence of unusual circumstances.

What Are FMLA Violations?

Employers violate the FMLA when they do any of the following:

  • Deny employee leave: The FMLA prohibits employers from denying employees leave, especially when employees fall within the requirements of the law. Therefore, where the employee meets the eligibility requirements, provides a justifiable reason and makes a proper request, the employer is required to grant the leave. Employees may take action against employers who deny the request for leave without proper justification.
  • Terminate the employment contract: Terminating the employment contract solely on the grounds that the employee exercised their rights under the FMLA is against the law. In such instances, the intentions of the employee may be immaterial.
  • Imposes sanctions: Employers are prohibited from imposing any form of sanctions or taking disciplinary actions against employees for exercising their FMLA rights. For example, employers who retaliate by demoting or denying employees well-deserved promotions may be required to reinstate the employee into the deserving position and compensate them for losses incurred. However, employers may sanction employees on other justifiable grounds, such as lateness, truancy or underperformance.
  • Fails to handle benefits: Employee benefits continue during their FMLA leave. For example, FMLA requires employers to maintain group health benefits during the leave as if employees continued to work instead of taking leave. Employers who in any way interfere with benefits to which employees are entitled may be ordered to compensate the employees for the losses and reinstate those benefits.
  • Counts FMLA leave days as absent: FMLA leave days are different from ordinary absent days, which may be covered in the employment contract. The FMLA, therefore, protects employers against poor performance reviews and salary slashes. Again, the days when employees work from home, especially with the consent of employers, may also count as workdays.

What Can Employees Do When Their FMLA Rights Are Violated?

Employees who believe their employers have violated their FMLA rights may file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the Department of Labor (DOL). The complaint must include relevant information, including the following:

  • The name of the employee
  • Address and contact details of the employee
  • Name of company
  • Location of the company
  • Contact details of the company
  • Name of manager or owner
  • The circumstances surrounding the FMLA request or complaint and the employers’ response.

Employees may also bring other claims against their employer, such as breach of contract and workplace discrimination, depending on the circumstances. Depending on the facts of the case, a court could issue an order prescribing various remedies to the employee. For example, besides reinstating the employee into the deserving position, the court may issue orders for various kinds of damages, including the following:

  • Nominal damages
  • Compensatory damages, including front pay and back pay
  • Liquidated damages
  • Punitive damages

Learn More About the FMLA in PA

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in Pennsylvania, Buzgon Davis Law Offices

At Buzgon Davis Law Offices, we understand that the Family and Medical Leave Act can be tricky. So, we dedicate our effort to helping employers and employees know their rights and obligations to avoid making costly mistakes. Our attorneys have the knowledge and experience to partner with you in finding personalized solutions to your employment challenges in a friendly and efficient manner.

Contact us now to learn more about your FMLA rights and duties!

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