When most people think of the Family & Medical Leave Act, they think of the 12 weeks of unpaid time off that it entitles them to at crucial periods in their lives, perhaps when having a baby or surgery or when caring for a sick family member. But many don’t realize that those 12 weeks don’t have to be taken all at once.
We all know that serious health and family issues don’t always come neatly packaged in a three-month block. Maybe you or a loved one has a chronic condition, such as diabetes, asthma or migraines, that flares up occasionally and requires you to stay home from work. Or, maybe an employee fighting cancer just needs a few hours off each week for several months to receive treatment.
The FMLA recognizes those types of situations by allowing for intermittent leave.
According to the U.S Department of Labor, less than a quarter of leave taken under the FMLA is intermittent leave. So, many employers aren’t as familiar with the right to intermittent leave and they don’t have the clear processes set up to administer it. That’s why it’s essential to know your obligations and rights under the FMLA.
In general, private employers with 50 or more employees are subject to FMLA requirements. You are eligible for FMLA leave if you have worked for your employer for a total of 12 months and you have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months before you take leave (the equivalent of about 24 hours per week).
If you need to take time off for an intermittent medical condition, it’s important to notify your employer as soon as possible. Your employer can ask you to get certification of your condition from your doctor, and they can even ask you to see another doctor to get a second opinion, at their expense.
Your employer can ask that you schedule treatment so as to minimize disrupting their operations. But it’s illegal for an employer to interfere with your rights under the FMLA by threatening you or discouraging you from taking time off. They can’t force you to switch from full-time to part-time status. Most importantly, they can’t retaliate against you for taking FMLA leave by reducing your pay rate, demoting you or assigning you to a different position, or firing you.
Intermittent FMLA may be harder on employers from an administrative standpoint, but there’s a good reason the Congress included it as part of the law when they passed it more than 25 years ago. Unfortunately, having a chronic medical condition is not that unusual, and anyone could have a situation where they need an occasional day off to tend to it.
The FMLA is complicated, but if you know your rights and obligations, you have a better chance of avoiding having to go to court to fight for them. If you believe your employer may have already violated your rights to intermittent leave under the FMLA, contact the Employment Litigation attorneys at Sommers Schwartz to review your case.