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Employer Rights and Responsibilities under the Family and Medical Leave Act

Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA or the “Act”), an eligible employee may be entitled to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave per year.  During this time, the employee will be able to continue to collect medical benefits that he or she had before taking a leave of absence.  Moreover, the FMLA prevents an employer from permanently replacing the employee during the time that the employee is not working.

There are certain criteria that an employee must meet in order to be eligible for leave under the FMLA.  For instance, if an employee or the employee’s spouse gives birth to a child, has complications associated with a pregnancy, or adopts or fosters a child, the employee qualifies for unpaid leave.  In addition, if an employee or a family member experiences serious health problems, the employee can also take an unpaid leave of absence.  An employee is also eligible for the leave if she needs to care for a spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition.

Although employees are entitled to various protections under the FMLA, employers also enjoy certain rights, such as:

  •  An employer may request documentation from an employee’s physician that substantiates his or her request for leave due to a serious health condition
  • An employer must receive adequate notice (usually 30 days) of an employee’s intention to take an unpaid leave of absence
  • An employer can request additional information from an employee regarding his or her medical condition, including a second and third medical opinion and periodic updates regarding the employee’s medical status
  • An employee must demonstrate that they will be able to perform their job duties upon return to work.  If the employee is unable to do so, an employer may have the right to terminate his or her position

Failure to comply with the FMLA can subject employers to serious repercussions, such as penalties, fines and expensive lawsuits.  The best way to avoid these issues – and to ensure compliance with the FMLA – is to contact our business employment law firm.

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