A major portion of the content on this site is inspired by social media conversations from places like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I have learned more on social media than I ever learned in college FREE. Someday, maybe it will qualify for more than just a 3 credit course or the world will realize at last that debt isn't required to get a valuable education.

Here is last weeks lesson from Facebook:

ONLY AT XYZ COMPANY. your supervisor tells you that youre out of FMLA and will be fired if you call off again knowing damn well that you get MEDICAL TREATMENT EVERY WEEK.

This was followed by a barrage of very sympathetic comments from well-meaning friends that ended in The HR Manager is useless.

EhemLet me clarify how this works.

The Family Medical Leave Act 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. Eligible employees are entitled to twelve work weeks of leave in a 12-month period for:

The birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;

The placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;

To care for the employees spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;

A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;

Any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employees spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on covered active duty; or

Twenty-six work weeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service-member with a serious injury or illness who is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin to the employee (military care-giver leave).

Not all companies are required by law to provide FMLA job protection (most commonly, not those with less than 50 employees). Its complex to administer, usually sad and rarely fun except sometimes when it is for an uneventful and routine birth or adoption. It shouldn't be difficult to administer however, while many employees are expedient with the paperwork, follow the guidelines and have little to no difficulty whatsoever, many individuals expect unreasonable accommodations, want time in excess of what is provided for, dont want to follow the rules and often run to chop off the HR peeps head.

To be eligible for FMLA, an individual must meet the following criteria:

Be employed by a covered employer and work at a work site within 75 miles of which that employer employs at least 50 people;

Have worked at least 12 months (which do not have to be consecutive) for the employer; and

Have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately before the date FMLA leave begins.

What are the issues? Well, they are significantly variable and plentiful and there are many papers and legal cases written about them. Usually they have to do with those employees that have a sense of entitlement and do not understand or care that the position they hold has a responsibility to get the work done - making it difficult for other employees and the employer. Some employees think FMLA means Fix My Life Act. Sometimes, a company doesnt ensure well enough that the employee and supervisor understand the terms of FMLA. It only takes one confused or misinformed employee to cost a business tens of thousands of dollars in an FMLA lawsuit and so its a touchy subject in the workplace.

Here are some examples of common FMLA snafued situations:

This one motivated me to write this post > One might need to exhaust all vacation, personal and sick time (or PTO if thats what you get) before being able to use FMLA. That means if you or your qualifying family member is ill youll have to use all your benefit time first and then FMLA time and if you exhaust all of both before the year is up and then want more time off for a vacation, holiday or other reasons to include additional medical appointments, you would likely end up with attendance occurrences and even separation. If you require more time away from the job than FMLA allows for then perhaps the best thing would be an unpaid leave of absence. The company cannot be expected to limp along without you or continue to make major accommodations covering your responsibilities. Sad but true. I have seen many heartbreaking examples of this but the employer cannot be expected to bear lengthy and undue burden though certainly some do.

If on a block leave, you wont have an income but youll still be responsible for paying any group health coverage employee contributions. If you dont send it in youll lose coverage.

If you are approved for intermittent leave, you still have to follow your companys absence related procedures. Just because you have FMLA it doesnt mean you can call off for a medical appointment that was scheduled in advance thats abuse. And clearly, it doesnt mean you should call off because you have something else to do (or want to do nothing) that day but were out of vacation time. Thats really abusive.

It would be horrible that someone could be let go for receiving medical attention. But lets face it. Thats not the real reason, thats the way an individual perceives the situation. People are let go because they cannot meet the expectations they agreed to when they were employed, they exhaust the terms of FMLA or they misuse it. It can be a painful last straw on the camels back to have your life severely impacted by illness and then lose your source of income. Its all the more reason to ensure you ask questions about and understand how FMLA works if your physician approves it.

Thats right, I forgot to mention, its not the evil HR lady that gives or doesnt give you FMLA its doctors orders.

Open communication with the company FMLA administrator and your manager, and ethical use of an accommodation meant to be used for serious situations, make for a successful return to work.

Do you have an FMLA related horror story?


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