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The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is among the most confusing laws in the workplace. The FMLA is a labor law requiring larger employers to provide employees unpaid leave for serious health conditions, to care for a sick family member, or to care for a newborn or adopted child. There are a lot of variables and factors to take into account when employees apply for leave under FMLA. To clear up some of the confusion, here are the most common FMLA questions asked by supervisors and managers.

What situations generally qualify an employee for FMLA leave?

According to the law, an employee can qualify for FMLA leave in the following situations:

  • Birth of a child (but it is not necessary that the leave-taker be the parent of the child)
  • Placement of a child with an employee for adoption or foster care
  • Providing care for a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition
  • Providing care for an employee’s own serious health condition, if the condition makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the job
  • Providing care or emergency help for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent who is a member of the military service.

How much notice, and what type, does an employee have to give before taking FMLA leave?

If an employee can reasonably foresee the need to take leave 30 or more days ahead of time, then 30 days notice must be given. If 30 days notice isn’t possible, employee must give you notice as soon as “practicable,” according to the wording of the law. An employee can make a written request, but a verbal notice can be sufficient to make the employer aware of the need for leave.

An employer can ask for certification that includes the following:

  • Date the serious health condition began
  • Probable duration
  • Appropriate medical facts within the knowledge of the healthcare provider
  • In cases involving family members, description of the care for a son, daughter, parent, or spouse, with an estimate of the amount of time that the care will require.

When employees return from FMLA leave, do they have a right to the same job they held before taking the leave?

Generally, you must restore a returning employee to the position held when the leave began, or to an equivalent position. The exception to this rule is if the employee was deemed a “key employee.” The employee does not have the right to their old jobs if it could result in substantial hardship on an employer. A key employee is defined as one who is salaried and among the highest paid 10% of the company’s employees. Employers must give employees a notice of the possibility of denial when they are approved for FMLA leave.

Can I require a fitness-for-duty certification for employees returning from FMLA leave? What about fitness-for-duty medical examinations?

Yes, an employer can require that an employee obtain a certification from a healthcare provider stating the employee is fit to resume work following an FMLA leave. You can provide the employee with a list of essential job duties that a healthcare provider can address when assessing fitness for duty. Only an employee’s doctor can administer a fitness-for-duty examination for certification to return to work. You can require a certification of fitness to return to duty for intermittent absences, up to once every 30 days, if “reasonable safety concerns” exist regarding the employee’s ability to perform his or her duties.

We are here and have the expertise to guide you through the FMLA process as well as any of your HR management needs.  If you have any questions, contact your DecisionHR Human Resources Business Partner at 1-888-828-5511.