Article Contributor: Kathryn Carlson
Navigating The Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA) can be a complicated process. FMLA includes many rules and regulations. The simple explanation is as follows; employees who work for a company that is required to provide FMLA are entitled to take twelve weeks of unpaid leave under FMLA over a twelve month period (or 26 weeks in a single twelve-month period for military caregiver leave) if they have been working for the company for at least twelve months prior to requesting leave and if they have worked at least 1,250 hours over that period. To make matters even more confusing, employees are also able to take intermittent FMLA leave when necessary.
What is FMLA intermittent leave? FMLA leave may be taken “intermittently” or on a “reduced leave schedule,” this means that the leave can be taken in separate blocks of time for a single illness or injury. Calculating intermittent leave can be complicated, simply because it involves additional steps for a manager. A few years ago I found myself unraveling a particularly complex FMLA problem.
An employee at the company I worked for was diagnosed with cancer in March. This meant that he needed to immediately take two weeks of FMLA leave. Once he returned to work, he let me know that he would need three days of leave every six weeks as part of his ongoing cancer treatments. These three days were applicable under FMLA. The difficult part was calculating the time off and how long his FMLA leave would last him.
The first thing to consider was the company’s FMLA policy. A company has two options when it comes to FMLA. The policy must be defined within the company and cannot be changed per individual circumstance.
- Twelve weeks of FMLA over the calendar year, beginning January 1 annually.
- Twelve weeks of FMLA over a rolling twelve month period, beginning on the day FMLA is invoked.
The company that I was working for at the time reset FMLA on January 1. This meant that the employee taking leave had twelve weeks to use beginning in March when he first invoked FMLA. To calculate the remaining time he was entitled to, I took the remaining weeks in the year (40) and divided them by six (6.66). I then multiplied that number by three, as that was how many days he needed off every six weeks. Based on this math he would need twenty days of FMLA between March and the end of the year.
It was important to ensure that the employee would have enough FMLA to cover the twenty days he needed off. The twelve weeks offered by FMLA breaks down into sixty eight-hour days. By subtracting the initial ten days that the employee had taken at his diagnosis, he had 50 days remaining. After taking the additional twenty days for ongoing treatment, the employee had an additional 30 FMLA days remaining, which meant that he could safely take FMLA whenever was necessary.
While I was dealing with this complicated case, it was important to remember that FMLA doesn’t only apply to the employee. It also applies to the employee’s children, parents, or spouse (in 2015 FMLA law changed to include same-sex spouse’s as well). Not only must the employee be eligible for FMLA, but the company must be required to offer it as well. Companies that have at least 50 employees who work within 75 miles of the physical location fall under Federal FMLA requirements, and sometimes there are also additional State requirements.
This story demonstrates how complicated FMLA can be, but by carefully breaking it down and checking with federal and state laws, you can provide FMLA to employees without extra loss for your dealership. If you are trying to figure out how to use intermittent FMLA at your dealership, contact HRM@kpaonline.com with questions.