Multiple factors motivated federal lawmakers to sign the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) into law. They aimed to give employees an option to take off up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from their job to care for their ill family members without having to fear losing their jobs. Not every employer must abide by FMLA. Not all workers qualify for such a benefit, either.
You must understand how this federal law works or otherwise potentially expose yourself to legal liability.
Employers that must honor the Family and Medical Leave Act
Any company that has at least 50 employees must offer FMLA. Qualified workers must physically work within a 75-mile radius of their primary job site. To qualify, your employees need to have worked at least 1,250 hours or 12 months to qualify to take FMLA leave. Plus, any worker that has previously taken 12 weeks of unpaid leave during the past year doesn’t qualify for additional FMLA leave.
In addition to understanding these basics, you need to remember that FMLA can apply to a diverse set of situations. For example:
- A prospective parent may be able to take FMLA in preparation for their child’s birth.
- A co-parent can do so to aid in caring for a newborn.
- Foster or adoptive parents may also take FMLA to adjust to their new family dynamics.
- Active-duty military workers can generally take FMLA in expectation of returning to their job after their training exercises or deployment.
In other words, FMLA doesn’t only apply to workers who have immediate family members with a serious illness (albeit that is the most common use).
How to not end up on the wrong side of FMLA leave law
Federal legislation such as FMLA is often long and complex to understand. That’s not a valid reason for making mistakes in approving your Morristown employee’s leave request, though. An attorney can advise you of your responsibilities as a New Jersey employer to not unnecessarily expose yourself to legal liability.