What is the purpose of the FMLA?
According to federal regulation, the FMLA is “intended to balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families, to promote the stability and economic security of families and to promote national interests in preserving family integrity.” CFR 825.101. The FMLA helps both employers and employees by encouraging family stability, which in turn contributes to work productivity.

At least 20 million people across the nation use unpaid family leave annually according to recent statistics. And while unpaid leave assures against losing one’s job, it does not preserve family income. Therefore New Jersey and several other states have recently enacted paid leave laws to supplement rights under unpaid leave laws such as the FMLA. New Jersey’s Paid Sick Leave Act allows up to 40 hours (approximately five weeks) of paid sick leave to be earned in a given year and may be used in combination with the FMLA.

Who is Eligible?
If your employer has 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of your worksite, and you have been working full time (i.e., at least 1,250 hours) for the entire 12 months prior to the start of an FMLA leave, you are eligible for FMLA leave.

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What can an FMLA leave be used for?
You can take FMLA leave for your own serious health condition, to care for a close family member (i.e. employees spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition, or for the birth or adoption of a child.

What is a serious health condition?
Under the FMLA, a serious health condition means any illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves either inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider. A serious health condition includes one in which you are incapacitated from work for three consecutive full calendar days with two follow up treatments within 30 days by your health care provider or one follow up and continuous treatment thereafter.

How long does FMLA leave last?
An eligible employee receives up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. But if the situation warrants, your doctor may place you on intermittent leave. This means your FMLA leave isn’t a continuous single span of time but can be taken on non-continuous days. For example, FMLA leave might be taken to monitor you for hypertension, accommodate therapy, or for pregnancy related care on a Tuesday and a Thursday for one week and a Monday and a Friday on another, as your doctor requires.

When does your employer have to notify you of your right to an FMLA leave?
Once your employer knows you have a serious health condition, your employer must provide notice of your rights under the FMLA.  

What does the FMLA protect?
Your employer may not terminate your employment because of taking FMLA leave or use the taking of FMLA as a negative factor in your work evaluation or discipline.

The information contained in this article is not intended to create an attorney client relationship. If you need help with a specific legal problem, contact a qualified attorney. If you have a question about your rights or responsibilities in the workplace please feel free to contact David Rostan, an attorney who has focused his practice for over twenty-three years on employment law. He can be reached at 973-520-8301, by email at rostanlaw@aol.com, or by visiting his web site www.davidrostanlaw.com