FMLA Common Questions
What is FMLA?
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of job protected leave per 12 month period for qualifying reasons.
Does the law guarantee paid time off?
No. FMLA leave is generally unpaid leave. However, Saint Louis University requires employees to substitute accrued paid leave for FMLA leave in accordance with University leave policies. Sick leave and caregiver leave will be exhausted first, if appropriate, vacation accruals second, then personal leave will be exhausted before an employee begins an unpaid leave portion of an FMLA leave.
What if an employer already provides paid leaves for the purposes covered by FMLA?
FMLA is intended to encourage generous family and medical leave policies. For this reason, the law does not diminish more generous existing leave policies or laws, though employers are entitled to confirm their employment policies and practices with the FMLA requirements.
Who is considered a "family member" for the purposes of taking FMLA leave?
An employee's spouse, son or daughter, and parents are immediate family members for the purposes of FMLA. The term parent does not include a parent "in-law".
Does FMLA leave have to be taken in whole days or whole weeks, or in one continuous block of time?
Eligible employees may request to take FMLA leave consecutively, intermittently, or on a reduced leave schedule. Intermittent leave is leave taken at separate blocks of time due to a single qualifying event, whereas reduced leave reduces an employee's usual number of working hours per workday or workweek. Leave for a serious health condition of the employee or a covered family member may be taken intermittently or on a reduced leave schedule when medically necessary, provided the employee gives appropriate notice and submits the required medical certification from a health care provider. Intermittent or reduced leave for the birth or adoption of a child may be approved at the discretion of the appropriate department head.
How does maternity leave work?
The birth of a child is a qualifying condition under FMLA. The mother is typically under a doctor's care for 6-8 weeks post delivery. This period of time is considered sick time for the mother. Once released and no longer under a doctor's care, if the mother chooses to take the remainder of the 12 week entitlement to bond with the baby, then this time will be taken as vacation or unpaid leave.
What about Family Members and "Caregiver" Leave?
The FMLA provides eligible employees with up to 12 workweeks of job protected leave per 12 month period to care for a son or daughter, spouse, or parent with a serious health condition. Since the staff member is not ill, use of sick leave would not be appropriate. However, the University will allow staff members to use up to five (5) days of existing sick leave per calendar year, as Caregiver sick days. The remainder of the 12 week entitlement must be taken as vacation or unpaid leave.
Is there a limit to the number of times FMLA leave can be taken in a year?
No. An employee is entitled to take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12 month period for any of the family and medical reasons that qualify for FMLA leave, without limitation.
Can I take FMLA leave for visits to a therapist, if my doctor prescribes therapy?
Yes. FMLA permits you to take leave to receive "continuing treatment by a health care provider," which can include recurring absences for therapy treatments ordered by a doctor such as, for example, physical therapy after a hospital stay, or for treatment of severe arthritis. "Continuing treatment" includes a single visit to a health care provider that results that results in a regimen of continuing therapy under the supervision of the health care provider.
How do you determine eligibility for FMLA leave?
To be eligible for leave under this policy an employee must have been employed for at least 52 weeks in total, and must have worked at least 1,250 hours during the twelve-month period immediately preceding the commencement of the leave.
What about spouses who work for the same employer?
If a husband and wife both work for Saint Louis University, they may be limited to a combined total of 12 weeks of FMLA leave in a 12-month period for the birth of a child, placement of a child for adoption or foster care, or the care of a parent with a serious health condition.
What do I have to do to request FMLA leave?
You may be required to provide Saint Louis University with 30 days advance notice when the need for leave is "foreseeable". When such an advance notice is not possible or the need for the leave cannot be foreseen, you must give your employer notice as soon as "practicable".
What kind of proof is required for my illness or that of an immediate family member?
You will be required to submit documentation - a medical certification - issued by the health care provider who is treating you or your immediate family member.
Can my employer require additional proof?
Saint Louis University may require you to obtain additional medical certification from a health care provider of the employer's choice, and at the employer's expense.
Can my employer require me to return to work before I exhaust my leave?
Saint Louis University may deny the continuation of FMLA leave due to a serious health condition if you fail to fulfill obligations to provide supporting medical certification as required by law. An employee returning from a leave due to their own serious health condition may be required to submit a return to work release. Restoration of employment may be denied or delayed if the release is not received prior to the start of the employee's regularly scheduled work shift.
Can my employer make inquiries about my leave during my absence?
Yes, but only to you. Saint Louis University may have reason to confirm whether the leave needed or being taken qualifies for FMLA purposes, and may require periodic reports on your status and intent to return to work after leave. Also, if Saint Louis University has reason to doubt the validity of a medical certification if wishes to obtain another opinion, you may be required to obtain additional medical certification at the employer's expense, or recertification during a period of unpaid FMLA leave.
Can my employer refuse to grant me FMLA leave?
If you are an "eligible" employee who has met FMLA's notice and certification requirements (and you have not exhausted your FMLA leave entitlement for the year) you may not be denied FMLA.
Will I lose my job if I take FMLA leave?
Generally, no. It is unlawful for any employer to interfere with or restrain or deny exercising of any right provided under the law. However, Saint Louis University may deny reinstatement to work - but not the use of FMLA leave or maintenance of health insurance coverage during the leave - to certain highly paid salaried ("key") employees under certain circumstances.
Are there other circumstances in which my employer can deny me my job after using FMLA leave?
In addition to denying reinstatement in certain circumstances to key employees, employers are not required to reinstate employees who would have been laid off or otherwise have their employment terminated had they continued to work during the period leave was used (for example, employees hired for a specific term of employment that expires). Also, under certain circumstances, employers who advise employees experiencing serious health condition that they will require medical certificates of fitness for duty to return to work may deny reinstatement to an employee who fails to provide such a certificate until it is provided.
Can my employer fire me for complaining about a violation of FMLA?
No, nor can Saint Louis University take any other adverse employment action of this basis. It is unlawful for any employer to discharge or otherwise discriminate against an employee for opposing a practice made unlawful under FMLA.
Will I be allowed to return to my same job after my leave?
Generally, yes. Ordinarily you will be restored to the same position you held prior to the leave, with the same pay and benefits, if the position remains available. You may be restored to an "equivalent position" rather than the position you held before taking leave if the previous position is not available. An equivalent position must have equivalent pay, benefits, and terms and conditions of employment as the original.
Do I lose all my benefits when I take unpaid FMLA leave?
Saint Louis University is required to maintain health insurance coverage on the same terms it was provided before the leave commences, as if you continued to work. In addition, the use of FMLA leave cannot result in the loss of any employment benefit that accrued prior to the start of your leave. Certain other earned benefits, such as seniority, do not need to continue to accrue during a period of unpaid FMLA leave. And for still other kinds of benefits, such as elected life insurance coverage, arrangements may need to be made between you and your employer so that they are continued during the period of leave.
For more FMLA FAQ's, please click here.