The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees certain employees the ability to take family, medical and military leave. Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year. During this time, their employer must maintain their health insurance benefits and ensure that they have the same or an equivalent job for them to return to. If the leave is taken to care for an injured or ill military service member, the employee may take up to 26 weeks of FMLA leave.
There are two important questions that need to be asked when determining whether an employee is eligible for FMLA leave:
- Is the employer covered? All public agencies – including federal, state and local employers – are covered employers. For private employers, only those with 50 or more employees are covered.
- Is the employee eligible? Besides working for an eligible employer, there are a couple of other qualifications that must be met. These include:
- Working for the employer for at least the previous 12 months;
- Working at least 1,250 hours for the employer during the previous 12 months; and
- Working at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.
This last qualification is the trickiest, since many districts do not have 50 or more employees. However, FMLA generally treats the state as a single employer and the county as a single employer. It’s not just a question of the number of employees at the district, but also the number of employees their level of government has.
Even if your employees are not eligible for FMLA protections, covered employers still have a responsibility to display a poster about FMLA protections and provide written notice about FMLA protection to your employees.
Although offering family and medical leave can place a burden on the employer, it is an important and valued benefit for your employees. Offering these benefits can help retain experienced staff and promote a positive view of you as an employer.
More information on FMLA is available through the U.S. Department of Labor. Be sure to consult with your state conservation agency and/or an attorney before making any final decisions about employee benefits and FMLA protection.
“Did You Know?” is produced by NACD’s District Operations and Member Services Committee and is distributed in eResource on the last Tuesday of each month. To access recent editions of “Did You Know?” click here.
“Did You Know?” recommendations and observations may not apply to all states. NACD’s DO/MS Committee requests your understanding. We also invite you to find out what your state and local laws and policies say about any particular item.