Family and Medical Leave Act

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What is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

What Are Qualified Leave Reasons?

Can Employees Receive Pay While on FMLA?

Is FMLA the Same As a Medical Leave of Absence?

  Reduced Work Schedules / Intermittent Leave

What Constitutes a Serious Health Condition?

How Much Notice Must an Employee Provide Prior to Using FMLA?

How Is FMLA Different Than Maternity Leave?

What Happens When an Employee Returns from FMLA Leave?


What is the Family Medical Leave Act?

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a federal law that was enacted on February 5, 1993.  The FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid job protected leave to all eligible employees for qualified reasons (see below).  To be eligible for FMLA benefits, an employee must:

1.  have worked at SPU for at least 12 months

2.  have worked at least 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months 

FMLA leave is designed to protect the employee’s position and health insurance benefits during absences for qualified reasons. The University has gone beyond this requirement in support of their employees and has elected to continue all the employee benefits during an FMLA leave. The Human Resources Office is responsible for coordinating all leaves of absence.  


What Are Qualified Leave Reasons?

FMLA leave will be granted to eligible employees for the following reasons:

  • the employee’s serious health condition 
  • the birth and care of the employee’s child (within the first 12 months following the event);
  • placement (with the employee) and care of a child for adoption or foster care (within the first 12 months following the event); and
  • care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent with a serious health conditionParent:  The biological parent of an employee or an individual who stands or stood in loco parentis to an employee when the employee was a child.  Child: A biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis, who is under 18 years of age or 18 years of age or older and incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability.
  • FMLA leave is available to both male and female employees who request leave for the birth or placement and care of a child as outlined above.

Can Employees Receive Pay While on FMLA?

Family Medical Leave is unpaid leave.  However, an unpaid FMLA leave may be designated to run concurrently with other, paid leaves such as sick, vacation, short term disability, or maternity leave. 

Substitution of paid leave

  • According to SPU’s policy, employees are required to utilize or substitute accrued sick and vacation days (in accordance with the provisions of the University’s sick and vacation leave policies) for an otherwise unpaid FMLA leave. This is in an effort to put a reasonable limit on the amount of time away from work any employee is entitled to.
  • Supervisor’s Note: An example would be a male employee who requests and is granted a reduced schedule FMLA leave to care for a newborn child. Under the approved reduced schedule, the employee works four hours per day for three consecutive weeks. Because the child does not have a serious health condition, the employee can not utilize accrued sick days. Therefore, the employee must substitute accrued vacation days for the unpaid four hours per day FMLA leave. If the employee exhausts all accrued vacation days prior to the end of the leave, then the remaining FMLA leave will be unpaid.

Is FMLA the Same as a Medical Leave of Absence?

FMLA leave differs from Employee Medical Leave in that the Employee Medical Leave is an SPU staff policy and the FMLA leave is leave mandated by Federal law.  FMLA may run concurrently with SPU's Medical Leave policy and FMLA leave may be used for intermittent absences or a reduced work schedule (with the University’s prior approval). 


Reduced Work Schedules / Intermittent Leave

  • Leave need not be taken as a 12 week block, but may be taken, with the department head’s approval, as a reduced work schedule or as intermittent absences. Determination as to whether an employee is qualified for FMLA leave will be made at the time leave is requested. Supervisors should work together with employees who have qualified FMLA reasons to make accommodation for the leave.
  • Intermittent leave is not an entitlement under the FMLA. Supervisors and department heads may choose to grant such a request to assist an employee in coping with their reason for needing the leave. The University encourages as much flexibility as possible without jeopardizing a department’s ability to operate effectively.

What Constitutes a Serious Health Condition?

Serious Health Condition An illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves either:

  • inpatient care in a hospital, hospice or residential medical care facility, or;
  • continuing treatment by a health care provider.

Continuing treatment. In broad terms, means the following:

  • A period of incapacity (i.e., inability to work, attend school or perform other regular daily activities due to the serious health condition, treatment thereof, or recovery therefrom) of more than three consecutive calendar days (and any subsequent treatment or period of incapacity involving the same condition) involving treatment two or more times by a health care provider or treatment by a health care provider on at least one occasion that results in a regimen of continuing treatment under the health care provider's supervision.
  • Any period of incapacity due to pregnancy or prenatal care.
  • Any period of incapacity or treatment for such incapacity due to a chronic serious health condition that requires periodic visits for treatment by a health care provider; continues over an extended period of time; and may cause episodic rather than continuing incapacity (asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, etc.).
  • A period of incapacity that is permanent or long-term due to a condition for which treatment may not be effective (Alzheimer's, severe stroke, terminal stages of a disease).
  • Any period of absence to receive multiple treatments by a health care provider either for restorative surgery after an accident or injury or for a condition that would likely result in a period of incapacity of more than three consecutive calendar days in the absence of medical intervention or treatment (chemotherapy for cancer, physical therapy for severe arthritis, or dialysis for kidney disease).
  • Within the guidelines of the FMLA, the University's Sick Leave policy allows employees to use sick leave to care for parents and spouses with a serious health condition. This use must be monitored by supervisors. It is therefore important that supervisors are familiar and comfortable with the definition of a serious health condition.
  • Under normal circumstances, a male employee whose wife just delivered a baby would qualify to use 5 sick days to care for his recovering spouse. Extended use of sick days would require physician’s certification of the spouses "incapacitating" medical condition. Otherwise, a male spouse may decide to use accrued vacation for additional "paternity leave". In any situation, this new father is entitled to up to 12 weeks of FMLA in the 12 months following the birth of the child. (Actual amount of FMLA he qualifies for is determined by the amount of FMLA he used during the 12 months prior to the birth).

How Much Notice is Required by Employees Prior to Using FMLA?

  • Employee: Where possible, the employee is required to provide written notice of the proposed FMLA leave at least 30 days in advance. Where advance notice is not possible, such as in the event of an emergency, the employee is to give notice as soon as practicable. Where the leave is foreseeable, yet the employee does not provide advance notice, the University may delay or postpone the commencement of the leave.
  • Supervisor: Any employee using five or more sick days, or who anticipates an absence of five or more days, is subject to an FMLA determination and should be reported by the supervisor to the Office of Human Resources, regardless of whether or not the employee has requested a leave of absence. Supervisors are often the first to know of a need to designate the leave and should contact the Office of Human Resources with any and all information pertaining to the leave.
  • University: The University must designate all leave of absences qualified as FMLA leaves, regardless of whether the employee has specifically requested FMLA leave. Failure on the University’s part to designate FMLA in a timely manner could result in the employee taking much more than 12 weeks of leave in a 12 month period, and may result in inconsistent treatment in designating leaves.  Inconsistent treatment can lead to unnecessary morale problems and claims of discrimination.

How is FMLA Different from Maternity Leave?

State of Washington family leave act

  • The State of Washington Family Leave Act entitles a female employee to 12 weeks of leave in the first 12 months following the birth of a child, in addition to any leave needed by the employee prior to the birth for pregnancy related disability reasons.

What Happens When an Employee Returns from FMLA Leave?

  • An employee returning from FMLA leave will be reinstated to the same or an equivalent position, with equivalent pay, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment. The employee’s failure to return to work at the end of the approved leave may result in termination of employment.
  • Supervisors must not, in any way, discriminate against or penalize an employee who is taking, or has taken, FMLA leave.