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6 Questions to Ask When an Employee Requests Medical Leave: Family and Medical Leave Laws

First of all, what is the law dictating the allowance of medical and family leave? The Family and Medical Leave Act was put into place in 1993 to help balance the demands of the workplace and the family or medical needs of employees. An employee is entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a variety of reasons, but only under certain conditions. It is important for employers to remain vigilant when allowing or turning down an employee's request for leave in order to stay on the safe side of the law and keep the morale of their workplace healthy. Here are the 6 things you should verify as an employer to be sure that you are granting leave to the right people.

  1. Is your company eligible to grant leave? Did you know that you are only required to give leave if your company is large enough to have at least 50 employees who work within 75 miles of its location. This law differs slightly between states, so be sure to check the local law requirement.

  2. How long has the employee worked for your company? If the person in question has worked with your business for at least 12 months, they may be eligible for family or medical leave. However, it must be noted that the hours worked in those 12 months must add up to at least 1,250 hours, the equivalent to 156 8 hour workdays.

  3. Will you require your employee to use their paid time off first? This internal company decision can be made at any point before leave is in effect, but for obvious reasons should become a permanent, standardized company policy.

  4. Do you want proof of the serious health condition? This can be an extremely delicate matter, but as an employer, you are entitled to ask for proof, though it is not required by law. If you choose to ask for proof, request certification by a medical professional from your employee within 5 business days of their request for leave. Your employee then has at least 15 calendar days to provide the paperwork. Employers also have the option to call the healthcare provider to obtain this information.

  5. Will your employee's specific position be held or will you move them to a new position? It is not required for an employer to grant the exact same job to an employee returning from leave. It is your responsibility to keep your company operating smoothly, therefore giving the employee a place to come back to, so the distribution of work required is up to you to decide.

  6. Depending on the type of leave, how long are you required to give? There are two types of leave: 12 week allowances, for birth and care, adoption, foster parenting, care of an immediate family member, personal serious health conditions and if an immediate family member is called to active duty in the military. The second type of leave is for 26 workweeks and is only available to care for a covered military servicemember with a serious injury or illness if the employee is an immediate relative.

The most important aspect of granting and denying leave to your employees is that is done with the utmost tact and respect within the requirements of the FMLA. Although medical leave is often a personal and sensitive issue, you can do much to uphold a positive standard in the workplace by treating the situation discreetly and fairly.

To see the full description of the law, visit the Department of Labor Law's site dedicated to FMLA here. If you have questions or need assistance with FMLA or other employment-related matters, please contact my firm at www.danzlaw.net.

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