Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) - Overview
The Family and Medical Leave Act, (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. An employee who has worked for a covered employer for at least one year and has met the requirement of 1250 or more work hours during the 12 months prior to a request for leave is eligible to use time under The Family and Medical Leave Act according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division.
An eligible employee will be provided up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within any 12 month period (beginning with the first day used) for the following qualifying reasons:
- The birth or placement of a child for adoption or foster care, to provide physical or psychological care for that child. This also includes incapacity due to pregnancy and prenatal medical care
- To care for an immediate family member who has been diagnosed with a serious health condition
- When the employee is unable to perform the functions of his or her job as a result of a serious health condition.
Need more details? Check the: FMLA FAQ
STEP ONE - Employee Request / Notice Requirements
An employee must make a request for FML (aka leave) to his or her supervisor or a Benefits Analyst and provide the anticipated timing and duration of the continuous, intermittent, or reduced work schedule leave.
When the need for leave is foreseeable, an employee must give his or her supervisor or a Benefits Analyst at least 30 calendar days' advance notice of the need for leave, if practicable, and complete the Employee Request for Family and Medical Leave form. (See College Policy 3-36 and Procedure 3-36 (D)). If 30 calendar days' notice is not possible, then the employee must at least give verbal notice to the supervisor or a Benefits Analyst no later than the next business day after the employee becomes aware of the need for leave and then immediately submit a completed Employee Request for Family and Medical Leave form to his or her supervisor or a Benefits Analyst.
When the need for leave is not foreseeable, such as for a medical emergency or other unforeseen events, an employee must provide at least verbal notice as soon as practicable to his or her supervisor or a Benefits Analyst. The employee must submit a completed Employee Request for Family and Medical Leave form to his or her supervisor or a Benefits Analyst as soon as possible but no later than 15 calendar days following the request for leave, absent extenuating circumstances.
An employee must provide additional notice and complete and submit a new Employee Request for Family and Medical Leave form to his or her supervisor or a Benefits Analyst within the same timelines described above when:
- Circumstances of the initial leave change;
- When the employee requires an extension of leave; or
- When the employee makes a new request for leave.
If the form is received in the department, by a supervisor, it should be forwarded immediately to the attention of a Benefits Analyst. This form may be sent via inter-office mail, scanned document and emailed, or fax. The supervisor and Benefits Analyst will require the employee to provide periodic updates on his or her status and intent to return to work. Please note that this documentation is time sensitive.
If an employee fails to meet the notice requirements described above, the start of the leave may be delayed and any absences during the delay may be counted as non-FML absences and may be subject to departmental attendance policy or practice, which may include discipline.
STEP TWO - Eligibility Notice
Within five business days following an employee's request for leave, a Benefits Analyst will determine if the employee is eligible (meets eligibility requirements, appears to have a qualifying reason for taking FML, and has an available balance of the applicable FML Entitlement) to take FML and will give eligibility notice to the employee, absent extenuating circumstances. A Benefits Analyst may verbally notify the employee of his or her eligibility to meet the five-day timeline but must confirm eligibility in writing with a completed Notice of Eligibility and Rights & Responsibilities form.
STEP THREE - Certification
The eligibility notice (described above) provided by a benefits Analyst will indicate whether the employee is required to provide a completed certification using one of the following certification forms, as applicable:
- Certification of Health Care Provider for Employee's Serious Health Condition
- Certification of Health Care Provider for Family Member's Serious Health Condition
- Certification of Qualifying Exigency for Military Family Leave
- Certification for Serious Injury or Illness of a Current Service member - For Military Family Leave
- Certification for Serious Injury or Illness of a Veteran for Military Caregiver Leave
A Benefits Analyst may request certification at a later date if there is reason to question the appropriateness of the leave or its duration.
The employee must return a complete and sufficient certification to a Benefits Analyst within 15 calendar days following a Benefits Analyst's request.
If a Benefits Analyst requires a certification for a leave request that is due to the employee's own serious health condition, then a Benefits Analyst should provide the employee with a job description or statement of the essential functions of the employee's position for the employee's health care provider to review. The health care provider must then use the job description or statement to specify what functions the employee is unable to perform and what limitations, if any, the employee may have and for what duration.
Upon receipt of an employee's certification, a Benefits Analyst will determine if the certification is complete and sufficient. The employee may be required to remedy any deficiencies in the documentation within seven calendar days. A Benefits Analyst may contact the employee's physician's office for clarification or authentication of the medical certification; however, under no circumstances will the employee's supervisor contact the employee's health care provider.
A Benefits Analyst may require recertification when an employee requests an extension of leave, when the circumstances described by the previous certification have changed significantly, or when the supervisor receives information that casts doubt upon the reason for the absence or the continuing validity of the previous certification. In all cases, recertification of a medical condition may be required every six months in connection with an absence by an employee.
If the employee fails to provide the required certification or recertification, or fails to remedy any deficiencies in the certification absent extenuating circumstances, the leave may be denied until the employee produces sufficient certification.
STEP FOUR - Designation Notice
When it has been determined that the employee has provided complete and sufficient certification for a leave, a Benefits Analyst will notify the employee whether the leave is designated and counted as FML by providing the employee a completed Designation Notice form within five business days of making such determination, absent extenuating circumstances.
In most circumstances, a fitness for duty certification will be required in order for the employee to be restored to employment following leave due to the employee's own serious health condition. The Designation Notice will include this requirement and a job description with the essential function of an employee's position.
STEP FIVE - Reinstatement / Return to Work
An employee must return to work on the first scheduled workday after the last day of approved FML or request additional leave on or before the last day of approved leave. When an employee returns to work on or before the expiration of FML, the employee's department will reinstate the employee to the same position the employee held when the leave commenced or to an equivalent position with equivalent benefits, pay and other terms and conditions of employment.
If the leave was due to the employee's own serious health condition and a fitness-for-duty certification is required, the employee must provide such certification from his or her health care provider at least two days before the date the employee is scheduled to return to work. If the employee fails to provide the fitness-for-duty certification by that time, the restoration to employment may be delayed until the employee submits the required certification.
If the employee's position or appointment will end or terminate prior to the expiration of FML (i.e. due to layoff, non-renewal), the employee will not be entitled to reinstatement as long as the employee's position or appointment would have terminated irrespective of the employee's use of the leave.
If an employee requires additional leave from work beyond the basic leave entitlement or military family leave entitlement, the employee may request to use any remaining accrued paid time or request an unpaid leave, subject to approval by the employee's supervisor, or department head. Departments should consult with their HR Business Partner prior to finalizing a decision on such a request.
An employee who requires reasonable accommodation for a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (as amended), including any extension of leave following FML, should make a request for reasonable accommodation through Columbus State's Compliance Coordinator, Michael Hicks, who will assist employees in need of a special accommodation(s), as soon as the employee believes that such an accommodation may be required.
An employee on FML will be considered to have voluntarily separated from employment if he or she:
- Advises the College of his or her intention not to return to work either after the expiration of approved leave or during any approved leave; or
- Fails to return to work upon the expiration of leave, unless the employee has requested
and been granted:
- the use of any remaining accrued paid leave;
- an unpaid leave; or
- a leave as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.
Please see Part 7, Section A of the Family and Medical Leave Procedure, 3-36 (D), for more information.