Illinois Business Lawyer

The early days of the Clinton administration saw the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993. With this mandate, the federal government aimed “to balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families.” The Act requires covered employers to provide unpaid leave and job protection to their employees for qualified family and medical reasons. As a business owner or HR manager, it is important to understand whether your employees qualify under FMLA, to ensure your company’s compliance with federal law and provide your employees with their lawful rights and benefits.

The following highlights the kinds of businesses and employees eligible for FMLA benefits. It also discusses some of the benefits mandated for employees under the Act, as well as potential employer liabilities.

How Do I Know If My Employees are Eligible for FMLA Benefits?
FMLA applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. If your company fits one of these categories, your employees may be eligible for leave if they meet the following requirements:

  • Employee has worked for you at least 12 months
  • Employee has worked at least 1,2750 hours over the past 12 months
  • Employee’s work location (your business) employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles.

What are the Rights and Benefits to Employees Under FMLA?
Under FMLA, covered employees must receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for any of the following reasons:

  • Birth and care of a newborn child of the employee
  • Placement of a child for adoption or foster care
  • Care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition or injured military service member of the family
  • Medical leave due to a serious health condition
  • Address qualifying urgent situations arising out of a family member’s military deployment

Time taken off work due to pregnancy complications can be counted against the 12 weeks of family and medical leave. Amendments to FMLA for military family members extended FMLA’s protection to next-of-kin and to adult children. Some states have enacted their own FMLAs, with lower thresholds for employer coverage. Illinois is not one of them and follows the federal guidelines.

What Employees and Types of Leave are Non-Eligible?
FMLA does not apply to workers in businesses with fewer than 50 employees (although this threshold does not apply to public agency employees and local educational agencies). Part time workers, having worked fewer than 1,250 hours in 12 months preceding the leave and a paid vacation are also ineligible for leave under the Act. What Must My Business Do to Avoid Liability and Comply with the FMLA?
If your business is an employer of a covered employee under FMLA, you must take the steps to inform your employees about their rights under the Act.

  • Post a notice approved by the Secretary of Labor, explaining the rights and responsibilities under the FMLA.
  • Include information about your employees’ rights in your employee handbooks, or otherwise give general written guidance about their rights whenever an employee requests leave.

It is unlawful for you to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of any rights provided by FMLA to your employees. It is also unlawful to fire an employee for opposing any practice related to the Act. Furthermore, if an eligible employee takes his or her full FMLA leave, you may not use that time off as a negative factor in your employment actions against that employee, such as hiring, promoting or disciplining that employee in the future.

Contact an experienced lawyer for business advice today at Anthony J. Madonia & Associates, Ltd.

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