The Family and Medical Leave Act FAQ's

 
  1. Why should I apply for FMLA Leave?
  2. Which employees are eligible to take FMLA leave?
  3. I am eligible for FMLA under SVSU leave policy. How do I apply for leave?
  4. How much leave am I entitled to under FMLA?
  5. How is the twelve (12)-month period calculated under FMLA?
  6. Is time taken under Family and Medical Leave Act paid or unpaid?
  7. Does FMLA leave have to be taken all at once, or can it be taken in parts?
  8. What is meant by the medical necessity for an intermittent or reduced leave schedule?
  9. May an employee be transferred to an alternative position in order to accommodate intermittent leave or reduced leave schedule?
  10. What is the employee's responsibility when requesting Family Medical Leave?
  11. What is a serious health condition?
  12. What does it mean that the employee is unable to perform the essential functions of his/her position?
  13. Which health conditions are not covered?
  14. Is mental illness covered by the FMLA?
  15. Is treatment for substance abuse covered by the FMLA?
  16. What is a "health care provider"?
  17. Can SVSU designate time off as FMLA leave without an employee request for FMLA?
  18. Does workers' compensation leave count against an employee's FMLA leave entitlement?
  19. Can SVSU count leave taken due to pregnancy complications against the twelve (12) weeks of FMLA leave for the birth and care of my child?
  20. What does it mean that an employee is needed to take care of a family member?
  21. Who is considered an immediate "family member" for purposes of taking FMLA leave?
  22. What information will SVSU provide to an employee going on FMLA leave?
  23. What are an employee's rights on returning to work from FMLA leave?
  24. What is a "key employee"?
  25. What steps must I take when I come back to work?
  26. Can I keep my SVSU insurance coverage while I am out on leave?
  27. Do employees earn sick/vacation accruals when they are on FMLA qualifying leave?
  28. Who do I contact regarding FMLA questions?

Q1. Why should I apply for FMLA Leave?

Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") entitles eligible employees to take up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a twelve (12) month period for specified family and medical reasons. The FMLA requires that employees receive the following job benefits and protections during the FMLA leave:

  • For the duration of FMLA leave, the employer must maintain the employee's health coverage on the same terms as if the employee continued to work.
  • Upon return from FMLA leave, most employees must be restored to their original or equivalent positions with equivalent pay, benefits, and other employment terms.
  • The use of FMLA leave cannot result in the loss of any employment benefit that accrued prior to the start of an employee's leave.
  • Absences during FMLA leave cannot be considered for disciplinary action under any absenteeism policy.
  • An employee cannot be discharged or discriminated against for the exercise of any right provided under FMLA, for involvement in any proceeding relating to FMLA or opposing any practice made unlawful by FMLA.

Q2. Which employees are eligible to take FMLA leave?

To be eligible, employees must have been employed for a total of twelve (12) months and have at least 1,250 work hours during the twelve (12)-month period immediately preceding the commencement of FMLA leave. Temporary, relief, adjunct faculty or student staff members may be eligible for benefits under the FMLA providing they meet the requirements of this section.

Q3. I am eligible for FMLA under SVSU leave policy. How do I apply for leave?

Contact your supervisor to obtain an Application for Family and Medical Leave.

Q4. How much leave am I entitled to under FMLA?

If you are an "eligible" employee, you are entitled to twelve (12) weeks of leave for certain family and medical reasons during a twelve (12)-month period.

Q5: How is the twelve (12)-month period calculated under FMLA?

The twelve (12) month period is calculated backwards from the date an employee uses any Family and Medical leave. Under the "rolling" twelve (12) month period calculation, each time an employee takes FMLA leave the remaining leave entitlement would be any balance of the twelve (12) weeks which has not been used during the immediately preceding twelve (12) months. For example, if an employee has taken eight (8) weeks of leave during the twelve (12) months preceding the date a new leave is to commence, an additional four (4) weeks of leave could be taken. If an employee used four (4) weeks beginning February 1, 1994, four (4) weeks beginning June 1, 1994, and four (4) weeks beginning December 1, 1994, the employee would not be entitled to any additional leave until February 1, 1995. However, beginning on February 1, 1995, the employee would be entitled to four (4) weeks of leave, on June 1 the employee would be entitled to an additional four (4) weeks, etc.

Q6. Is time taken under Family and Medical Leave Act paid or unpaid?

For your own serious health condition, you must use any accrued paid sick time at the beginning of your leave. You have the option to use any unused vacation or personal days as part of your leave by contacting your immediate supervisor. If you exhaust your accrued paid sick leave or unused vacation or personal days, you will be placed on an unpaid leave.

For the care of an ill child, spouse or parent, you may use up to three (3) days of accrued paid sick leave, if available, as part of the twelve-week leave. You have the option to use any unused vacation or personal days as part of your leave. If you require more time off you will be placed on an unpaid leave for the remainder of your leave.

Q7. Does FMLA leave have to be taken all at once, or can it be taken in parts?

An employee may request and be granted intermittent/reduced schedule leave in the case of a serious illness of themselves, their parent, spouse or child if there is a medical necessity and if the medical need can be best accommodated through such a leave. Intermittent/reduced schedule leave is not available (except as medically required) in connection with the birth of a child, an adoption or foster care.

Intermittent leave is taken in separate blocks of time due to a single illness or injury and may include leave periods from an hour or more to several weeks. Examples would include leave taken on an occasional basis for medical appointments or leave taken several days at a time spread over a period of six months, such as for chemotherapy.

A reduced leave schedule reduces an employee's usual number of working hours per workweek, or hours per workday.


Q8. What is meant by the medical necessity for an intermittent or reduced leave schedule?

For intermittent leave or leave on a reduced schedule, there must be a medical need for the leave (as distinguished from voluntary treatments and procedures) and it must be that such medical need can be best accommodated through an intermittent or reduced leave schedule.

There should be an attempt to schedule intermittent leave or leave on a reduced schedule so as not to disrupt a department's operations. The University may assign an employee to an alternative position with equivalent pay and benefits that better accommodates the employee's intermittent or reduced leave schedule.

Q9. May an employee be transferred to an alternative position in order to accommodate intermittent leave or reduced leave schedule?

Yes. The University may temporarily transfer the employee to an alternative position with equivalent pay and benefits if the employee is qualified for the position and the new position better accommodates the intermittent or reduced leave than the employee's regular job. Such a transfer must be requested through the Employment and Compensation Services Office.

Q10. What is the employee's responsibility when requesting Family and Medical Leave?

In all cases, it is the employee's responsibility to make the need for FMLA leave known and to furnish enough information regarding the need for leave so that SVSU can determine eligibility. An employee must provide his/her department at least thirty (30) days' advance written notice before FMLA leave is to begin if the need for the leave is foreseeable. If thirty (30) days' notice is not practicable, such as due to lack of knowledge as to when leave will be required to begin, notice must be given as soon as practicable. An "Application for Family and Medical Leave" form must be completed and returned to his/her immediate supervisor. "As soon as practicable" ordinarily would mean notification within one or two business days of when the need for leave becomes known to the employee. The department should inquire further of the employee if it is necessary to have more details of the leave to be taken. Notice may be given verbally through the University's call-in system for unforeseen leave requests or by the employee's family member if the employee is unable to do so personally.

If leave is taken for an FMLA reason, but SVSU is not aware of the reason at the time of the leave, the employee must notify his/her supervisor of the reason for the absence no later than two business days after returning to work. Without such timely notification, an employee cannot subsequently assert FMLA protections for the absence and the absence will be considered under the applicable leave or absenteeism policy.

An employee is also responsible for obtaining medical certification in support of the leave request when requested by SVSU. All certifications must be returned to the Employment and Compensation Services Office within fifteen (15) calendar days of the request. Failure to return the certification will result in denial of FMLA leave and loss of any legal protections under the law.

Q11. What is a serious health condition?

A "serious health condition" is defined as an illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition that involves one of the following:

  1. Inpatient care: An overnight stay in a hospital or similar facility, including any period of incapacity, or any subsequent treatment in connection with the inpatient care.
  2. Absence Plus Treatment: A period of incapacity of more than three consecutive calendar days that involves:
    1. Two or more treatments by a health care provider; or
    2. Treatment by a health care provider which results in a regimen of continuing treatment supervised by the health care provider.
      • A "regimen of continuing treatment" includes, for example, a course of prescription medication (e.g., an antibiotic) or therapy requiring special equipment to resolve or alleviate the health condition (e.g., oxygen).
      • A "regimen of continuing treatment" does not include taking over-the-counter medications, bed-rest, drinking fluids, exercise, and other similar activities that can be initiated without a visit to a health care provider.
  3. Pregnancy: Any period of incapacity due to pregnancy or prenatal care.
    1. If more than the "normal problems" are involved; or
    2. If information is provided to show that the pregnancy and related conditions incapacitate the employee from performing the functions of her job.
  4. Chronic Conditions Requiring Treatment: Any period of incapacity or treatment for an incapacity due to a chronic condition. A chronic condition is one which:
    1. Requires periodic visits for treatment by a health care provider, or by a nurse or physician's assistant under direct supervision of a health care provider;
    2. Continues over an extended period of time (including recurring episodes of a single underlying condition); and
    3. May cause episodic rather than a continuing period of incapacity (e.g. asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, etc).
  5. Permanent/Long-Term Conditions Requiring Supervision: A period of incapacity due to a long-term or incurable health condition. The condition may not require continuing treatment but does require the continuing supervision of a health care provider (such as Alzheimer's, stroke, or a terminal disease).
  6. Multiple Treatment (Non-Chronic Condition): Any absence to receive multiple treatments by or under order of a health care provider, either for restorative surgery after an accident or other injury or for a condition which would likely result in a period of incapacity of more than three (3) consecutive calendar days in the absence of medical intervention or treatment (such as physical therapy, kidney dialysis, or chemotherapy).

* Note: a three day absence is not required. Rather, this is based on the speculation that a three day absence would result.

Definitions:

  • An "incapacity" is an inability to do work, attend school or perform other regular daily activities due to the serious health condition, treatment therefore, or recovery there from.
  • "Treatment" includes examinations to determine if a serious health condition exists and evaluation of the condition. Treatment does not include routine physical examinations, eye examinations, or dental examinations.

Q12. What does it mean that the employee is unable to perform the essential functions of his/her position?

It means the health care provider determined that the employee is unable to perform his/her work or is unable to perform any one or more of the essential functions of his/her position within the meaning of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). SVSU has the option to provide a statement of the essential functions of the employee's job for the health care provider to review.

Q13. Which health conditions are not covered?

Illnesses caused by the common cold, flu, earaches, upset stomach, minor ulcers, headaches other than migraines, routine dental and orthodontia problems, and periodontal disease, regardless of period of incapacity unless other problems arise.

Conditions for which cosmetic treatments are administered (such as most treatments for acne or plastic surgery), unless inpatient care is required or complications develop.

Q14. Is mental illness covered by the FMLA?

Mental illness may be a serious health condition, but only if all of the elements of the definition are met, based upon a case-by-case analysis.

Q15. Is treatment for substance abuse covered by the FMLA?

Substance abuse may be covered by the FMLA if the elements of the definition of a serious health condition are satisfied, based upon a case-by-case analysis. However, FMLA leave may only be taken for treatment for substance abuse provided by a health care provider or by a provider of health care services on referral by a health care provider. On the other hand, absences because of the employee's use of the substance, rather than for treatment, does not qualify for FMLA leave.

Q16. What is a "health care provider"?

  • A doctor of medicine or osteopath who is authorized to practice medicine or surgery (as appropriate) by the state in which the doctor practices;
  • Podiatrists, dentists, clinical psychologists, optometrists, and chiropractors (limited to treatment consisting of manual manipulation of the spine to correct ambulation as demonstrated by x-ray to exist) authorized to practice in the state and performing within the scope of their practice as defined under state law;
  • Nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives, and clinical social workers who are authorized to practice under state law and who are performing with the scope of their practice as defined under state law;
  • Christian Science practitioners listed with the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts;
  • Any health care provider from whom an employer or the employer's group health plan's benefits manager will accept certification of the existence of a serious health condition to substantiate a claim for benefits; and
  • A health care provider listed above who practices in a country other than the United States, who is authorized to practice in accordance with the law of that country, and who is performing within the scope of his or her practice as defined under such law.

The phrase "authorized to practice in the state" as used in this definition means that the provider must be authorized to diagnose and treat physical or mental health conditions without supervision by a doctor or other health care provider.

Where an employee or family member is receiving treatment from a Christian Science practitioner, an employee may not object to any requirement from an employer that the employee or family member submit to examination (though not treatment) to obtain a second or third certification from a health care provider other than a Christian Science practitioner except as otherwise provided under applicable state or local law or collective bargaining agreement.

Q17. Can SVSU designate time off as FMLA leave without an employee request for FMLA?

SVSU strongly encourages all employees to apply for FMLA leave pursuant to designated procedures. Timely application for FMLA leave ensures that eligible employees receive the protections guaranteed to employees under the Act. However, due to the employer duties set forth in the FMLA, there may be circumstances that SVSU will designate time off as FMLA leave without an employee request. SVSU will notify an employee of the applicability of the FMLA by sending an Employer Response to Employee Request for FMLA form to the employee.

Q18. Does workers' compensation leave count against an employee's FMLA leave entitlement?

It can. FMLA leave and workers' compensation leave can run together, provided the reason for the absence is due to a qualifying serious illness or injury.

Q19. Can SVSU count leave taken due to pregnancy complications against the twelve (12) weeks of FMLA leave for the birth and care of my child?

Yes. An eligible employee is entitled to a total of twelve (12) weeks of FMLA leave in a twelve (12)-month period. If the employee has to use some of that leave for another reason, including a difficult pregnancy, it may be counted as part of the twelve (12) week FMLA leave entitlement for that year.

Q20. What does it mean that an employee is needed to take care of a family member?

It means that because of a serious medical condition, the family member is unable to care for his/her own basic medical, hygienic, or nutritional needs or safety, or is unable to transport him/herself to the doctor. The term also includes providing psychological comfort and reassurance, which would be beneficial to a child, spouse, or parent who is receiving inpatient care.

Q21. Who is considered an immediate "family member" for purposes of taking FMLA leave?

Spouse - a husband or wife as recognized by State law for purposes of marriage.

Parent - a biological parent or an individual who stood in loco parentis to an employee when the employee was a child. This term does not include parents "in law".

Child - a biological, adopted, foster child, stepchild, legal ward or child of a person standing loco parentis who is either under age 18, or age 18 or older and "incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability."

Note: If spouses are both employed by SVSU, they are limited to a combined total of twelve (12) weeks of family and medical leave during any twelve (12) month period if the reason for the leave is:

  • For the birth of a child or to care for the child after birth.
  • For the placement of a child for adoption or foster care, or to care for the child after placement.
  • For the care of a parent with a serious health condition.

Q22. What information will SVSU provide to an employee going on FMLA leave?

Once SVSU is aware the leave is being taken for a FMLA-qualifying reason, the Human Resources Office will notify the employee that the leave will be designated as FMLA leave. The Response to Employee Request for Family or Medical Leave is to be used to confirm the FMLA leave; and to explain the specific expectations and obligations of the employee; and to explain any consequence of failure to meet these obligations.

Q23. What are an employee's rights on returning to work from FMLA leave?

Except for those employees designated as "key employees," employees will be returned to the same position held when leave commenced, or to an equivalent position with equivalent benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment.

Q24. What is a "key employee"?

A "key employee" is a salaried FMLA-eligible employee who is among the highest paid ten (10) percent of all the employees employed by the employer within 75 miles of the employee's worksite. The determination of whether a salaried employee is among the highest paid ten (10) percent shall be made at the time the employee gives notice of the need for leave.

Q25. What steps must I take when I come back to work?

If an employee plans to return on a date other than the date specified in the original request for leave, he/she must notify his/her supervisor as soon as the change of circumstances become known. The employee must provide reasonable notice. A certification of your fitness for duty by a physician will be required where the leave has been because of an employee's own serious medical health condition.

Q26. Can I keep my SVSU insurance coverage while I am out on leave?

Yes. As long as you are on paid leave, your payroll deduction will continue. If you go on unpaid leave, you will need to submit payment for your share of the monthly premiums. Contact the Human Resources Office for details.

Q27. Do employees earn sick/vacation accruals when they are on FMLA qualifying leaves?

Employees only earn sick and vacation accruals when they are on a paid leave.

Q28. Who do I contact regarding FMLA questions?

Human Resources Office:

LaDonna Young - Human Resources Specialist - (989) 964-2253
or
Jennifer Neitzel - Human Resource - (989) 964-4126