Understanding how FMLA is useful to eligible workers

New Yorkers should be aware that U.S. labor law gives them the right to take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), should the need arise. With FMLA, there are certain employee benefits available to take time off for a variety of health-related and personal reasons without fear of losing the job. There are eligibility requirements with FMLA, but once a person is eligible, he or she can use it. Amid these benefits, it is important to know what benefits FMLA provides.

A person who has a health issue that will require missed time at work, or to care for a loved one, will get up to 12 weeks available to be off and still have job protection. When the leave is taken, the worker will also remain on the employer's health insurance program as if no time off was taken.

Provided the person returns to work before the amount of time accorded under FMLA is exhausted, the person will be able to return to the same or a similar job.

The idea behind providing job protection is so the person does not have to worry about making a choice between keeping the job, maintaining their health or caring for a loved one. Employers are legally barred from sanctioning an employee in any way because of using FMLA. For example, the employer cannot use the fact that the worker took advantage of FMLA to deprive the worker of a promotion that is deserved.

FMLA can be taken as a block -- an example might be several weeks off after a surgical procedure -- or it can be taken partially for a few days or hours at a time. Workers are not completely free to do as they wish.

The time off that is taken cannot be a significant disruption to the employer if this can be avoided. FMLA is unpaid, but a worker can use vacation time, sick days, personal days and more in addition to FMLA, so pay continues.

Workers who need time off and have a job for which FMLA is applicable can use this to their benefit. It is an unfortunate reality. However, that some employers subtly or overtly try to discourage workers from using FMLA, even if they have the worker has the right to do so. When this happens or some other problem like a demotion on returning to work occurs, a legal professional who is experienced with FMLA and other aspects of employment law can help.

Source: DOL.gov, "The Employee's Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act -- What Can the FMLA Do for Me?, page 6," accessed on Sept. 12, 2017

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