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  • Family Medical Leave Act – Protection for Some Workers

    returning to work fmlaBy Henry Yampolsky, Esq.

    Over twenty years ago President Bill Clinton signed into law the Family Medical Leave Act.  Intended to balance the needs of the families with the demands of the workplace, the Act allows eligible employees to take up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period to attend to the serious health condition of the employee, parent, spouse or child, or for pregnancy or care of a newborn, adopted or foster care child.

    To qualify for the leave, a worker must be employed by a business, public agency or local, state or federal government unit with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of her workplace. She must also have worked for that employer for at least 12 months (not necessarily consecutive) and must have accrued 1,250 hours of work within the last 12 months.  The FMLA provides unpaid, job-protected leave, including intermittent leave, for up to 12 weeks a year:

    • to care for a new child, including adoption or placement of a child in foster care;
    • to care for a seriously ill family member, including spouse, parent or child (assuming that the child is either under the age of 18 or if over the age of 18 has a physical or mental disability)
    • to recover from a worker’s own serious illness;
    • to care for an injured service member in the family; or
    • to address qualifying exigencies arising out of a family member’s deployment.

    The FMLA requires employers to provide eligible workers with:

    • the same group health insurance benefits, including employer contributions to premiums that would exist if the employee was not on leave.
    • restoration to the same or substantially equal position upon return to work.
    • protection from adverse employment decisions based

    Unfortunately, FMLA does not cover over 40% of the American work force.  Among the workers not covered by the Act are:

    • those in businesses with fewer than 50 employees;
    • part-time workers or workers who worked fewer than 1,250 hours within the 12 months preceding the leave;
    • individuals seeking time off  to take care of a domestic partner, step child or any other relative other than parent or child; and
    • those who need time off to recover from short-term or common maladies such as colds, or to seek routine medical care.

    While a number of states have expanded FMLA coverage to cover domestic partners and step-children and to reduce the number of employees required to be working for the employer to get coverage, Pennsylvania is not among the states which provides extended coverage.  Thus, workers and employers in Pennsylvania are bound by the mandates of the Act, originally signed by President Clinton.

    Many believe it is time to revisit the Federal statute so its protections are more in line with the needs of the American family.  Unfortunately, it does not appear that any changes are on the horizon.  And, the Pennsylvania legislature has not expressed any intention for the expansion of the FMLA either.

    Navigating your rights under the FMLA can be tricky.  An employer, either willingly or unknowingly, might deprive you of benefits provided by this law.  If you have questions about your rights under the FMLA, please contact Galfand Berger, LLP and speak with one of our Employment attorneys.

    Call our law offices at 1-800-222-8792 to schedule a free confidential consultation or submit an online inquiry form. With offices conveniently located in Philadelphia, Reading and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, our dedicated Employment lawyers represent workers throughout Pennsylvania, including the Harrisburg and Allentown regions, as well as the Southern New Jersey.

    1-800-222-USWA (8792)