How Does It Work?

▼   What is the FMLA?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that requires covered employers to provide eligible employees with time off from work in specific situations. The University of South Alabama and USA Health are covered employers with the FMLA. The FMLA was enacted in 1993.
▼   What types of situations are covered by the FMLA?

The FMLA covers the following situations:

  1. Birth of a child, and to care for the newborn child;
  2. Placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care;
  3. Care for the employee’s spouse, child*, or parent with a serious health condition;
  4. A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the employee’s job;
  5. A qualifying exigency as defined by the Department of Labor arising out of the fact that the spouse, son, daughter, or parent (the “service member”) of the employee is on covered active duty or has been notified of an impending call to order to covered active duty;
  6. To care for a spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin (the “service member”) who is a current member or veteran of the Armed Forces or National Guard or Reserves and who has an illness or injury incurred in the line of duty.

*A child for the purposes of Family Medical Leave (FML) is defined as a biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward or a child of a person standing in loco parentis, who is under age 18; or age 18 or older and incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability at the time that FML is to commence.

▼   Who is eligible for Family Medical Leave (FML) leave?
Employees who have completed at least 12 months of employment and worked at least 1,040 regular hours in the 12 months preceding the commencement of the leave are eligible (excludes unpaid vacation/sick or PTO leave).
▼   What types of leave are available with the FMLA?

The FMLA provides for different types of leave depending on the situation. Leave may be taken in continuous, full-time periods or may be taken intermittently or on a reduced schedule when medically necessary or for a qualifying exigency due to a call to covered active duty.

Intermittent: When intermittent or reduced schedule leave is needed to care for an immediate family member or the employee’s own condition, and is for planned medical treatment, the employee must consult with the supervisor and make a reasonable effort to schedule treatment so as not to unduly disrupt the department’s work.

▼   What is the maximum leave time allowed for FML?
 

With appropriate certification the University will grant an eligible employee FML leave for up to 90 calendar days or 480 hours for intermittent leave during a 12-month rolling period. (If the employee works less than full-time, the amount of leave time is pro-rated according to the employee’s appointment.)

One exception: The one exception is that a total of 26 weeks is allowed to care for a spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin (the “service member”) who is a current member or veteran with illness or injury incurred in the line of duty while in the Armed Forces or National Guard or Reserves. No more than 26 weeks, total, of any type of FML may be used during one single 12-month period.

▼   What constitutes a “year” for the purposes of FML leave?
 

The “year” used by the University under the FMLA is a rolling back year. Using the “rolling back” method, the University will determine an employee’s eligibility for leave by reviewing the 12 months prior to the date leave is requested. The employee is eligible for any balance of leave not used during the previous 12 month period.

Example:
Employee “A” requested FML for maternity leave beginning July 3, 2016. Based on HR records, employee “A” has one year of continuous service, has worked 1040 regular hours in the year prior to July 3, 2016, and has taken 3 weeks of FML due to early pregnancy complications on February 5, 2016. Due to employee “A’s” prior usage of FML (3 weeks) in the one year prior to July 3, 2016, she was approved for 9 weeks of FML beginning July 3, 2016.

▼   What does the FMLA provide employees?
 

The law contains provisions on employer coverage; employee eligibility, entitlement of leave, maintenance of health benefits during leave and job restoration after leave. In other words, the law provides protection of employment and benefits.

▼   Is FML paid or unpaid?
 

FML leave is unpaid. The University requires employees to use, concurrently with FML leave, applicable paid leave including sick leave, vacation, PTO or EEI. The paid time used for an FML purpose will count toward the 12 (26-military service member) weeks or 480 hours of FML leave entitled under the FMLA.

▼   What if I am unable to return to work at the end of the FML leave?
 

You must present a return-to-work release in order to return to work at the end of continuous FML leave. The FMLA provides for 12 (90 calendar days) (26-military service member) weeks of leave each calendar year. If you are totally or partially unable to return to work at the end of FML leave, you should contact Human Resources as soon as possible to discuss what options may be available, such as an extension of leave or long term disability. If you extend the leave of absence beyond the allowed 12 (90 calendar days) (26-military service member) weeks of FML, it will be as a Personal Leave of Absence. While on personal leave, if you have paid time available (i.e. sick, vacation or PTO) the employee premiums for the USA Health & Dental Plan and additional life insurance, if applicable, will be deducted from your paycheck. However, once you have exhausted your available paid time and are in an unpaid status, you will be required to pay the full monthly premium (employee and employer contributions) in order to continue your employee benefits.

▼   If I am off for a work-related injury, does FML apply?
 

Yes, if the injury or illness meets the requirements of the FMLA and the definition of a serious health condition.

▼   If I give notice of intent not to return from FML, are my benefits terminated?
 

Yes, as long as the notice is “unequivocal” or definite. One form of an unequivocal notice is when you submit a written letter for resignation. In that case you would have the options to continue coverage through COBRA following termination of employment. However, failure to pay the required premiums while on leave, which results in the cancellation of your USA Health & Dental Plan coverage, will cause you to forfeit your rights under COBRA. There is also no right to reinstatement once you have provided “unequivocal” or definite notice that you will not return.

▼   Can I request sick leave or vacation for a serious health condition and NOT count this toward the FML leave?
 

No, such a request will automatically count as FML leave. The University requires that any illness or condition that requires the employee to be absent from work for more than 2 weeks be treated as FML until it is proven not to qualify for it.

▼   Can the University place me on FML leave if I do not request FML leave?

Yes, the University may place you on FML if the University knows or has reason to know you are absent due to a qualifying medical reason.

▼   Are there differences in how the FML leave is administered between exempt and non-exempt employees?

No, all groups of employees have the same rights under the FMLA. However, the University leave policies that outline how employees may be paid during their time off may differ depending on the employee category.

▼   What happens when both the employee and their spouse/partner work for the University? Can both apply for FML leave?

If both employees work for the University and meet the eligibility requirements for FML then both will be eligible to a combined total of 12 (90 calendar days) (26-military service member) weeks of FML for birth, adoption, foster care, to care for a parent or due to any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the spouse, son, daughter or parent of the employee is on active duty (or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty) in the Armed forces in support of a contingency operation. If the leave is requested for the employee’s own serious health condition, the care of the other spouse, or the care of a sick child, each employee is eligible for to up to 90 calendar days of leave.

▼   I have a large sick leave balance. Why do I need to go through the FML process for my absence?
 

The University is required to designate and track FML leave even if you have sufficient sick leave to cover the leave of absence. Remember that the sick leave and FML run concurrently.