The Family Medical Leave Act is a powerful law that has provided untold numbers of California employees and their families very needed time to take care of their health and well-being when illness or injury occurs. It functions to protect the employee from termination from employment due to not appearing for work, while on a qualified leave. It is different from California’s sick leave law.
Employees have obligations when seeking FMLA
There are responsibilities of the employees, however, in securing their FMLA rights. The employees must communicate with the employer as forthrightly and early as possible when they realize leave is necessary. They must also be willing to provide responses to employer questions that will help confirm if the leave needed is a qualified leave under FMLA.
Employee must provide timely notice to employer
Generally, when the leave is foreseeable, the employee must provide 30 days of notice to the employer. If not feasible, the employee must provide the notice as soon as reasonably possible. It is important to note that if an employer has policies or rules applicable to request for time off for leave, they can require that employees follow them, even if it is ultimately an FMLA qualifying leave.
Employee has ongoing obligation to keep employer informed
When an employee requests leave for the first time, he or she may not be aware of the FMLA and, as such, there is no requirement of the employee to mention FMLA. The employee may advise the employer of the need for leave verbally or in writing. However, because the employer needs sufficient relevant information to realize this may be an FMLA qualifying event, it is the employee’s obligation to provide that sufficient information. The employer also needs to know when the leave needs to begin and its expected duration.
Some FMLA leave may require a medical certificate from the employee’s physician to confirm it is an FMLA qualifying leave. Employers also have a right to ask ongoing questions if the FMLA leave continues longer than originally expected.
In essence, the FMLA entails ongoing and interactive communication before and during the FMLA leave.