If you work for a private employer that has more than 50 employees in a 75-mile radius for at least 12 months and 1,250 hours, you are entitled to 12 weeks of leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. While you take FMLA leave, your employer isn't allowed to reduce your position or pay and can't interfere with your time off but can contact you to request certain information.
Under normal circumstances, you need to provide your employer with 30 days of advance notice before taking FMLA leave. However, certain situations, such as a personal or family medical emergency, necessitate the immediate taking of leave. In these instances, give notice to your employer on the first day you can do so, preferably the first or second business day. Under FMLA, your employer may request additional verification, such as a medical certification, after you call.
FMLA allows your employer to contact you prior to a previously acknowledged return-to-work date to verify your plans to resume your regular duties at that date. If you request additional leave for continued treatment of the same condition, your employer also can ask for a new medical certification. When your employer contacts you with a legal request for additional information or verification, comply in a timely fashion. For example, you need to provide medical certification within 15 days.
An employer may contact you while you are on medical leave about work-related matters provided she only calls occasionally to ask questions about work you needed to leave undone or to inquire about matters of institutional knowledge. Phone calls that require you to guide a replacement worker through the minutiae of your position violate FMLA. For example, your assistant phoning to ask for the location of client contact information is acceptable, but a request to walk her through the creation of a quarterly sales report isn't.
When an employer makes a request that violates your FMLA leave, document the incident and let your employer know you can't comply until you return to work. If she persists in making inappropriate requests, harasses you or attempts to alter your rank or pay-scale when you return to work, you may submit an FMLA complaint to the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division or file a private lawsuit in federal or state court. The Department of Labor usually takes complaints for up to two years after an FMLA violation occurs. However, if your employer willfully violates the law, a three-year gap is allowed.
Other Program Violations
Different states also maintain variations of FMLA that afford employees more rights under the law. Any bargaining agreements you work under and your employer's guidelines concerning paid medical leave also may clarify acceptable reasons for contact. Before taking medical leave or sick days, review your employee handbook to ensure both you and your employer comply fully with the outlined process.
Ashley Mott has 12 years of small business management experience and a BSBA in accounting from Columbia. She is a full-time government and public safety reporter for Gannett.