Although many women qualify for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act when they take time off from work for pregnancy, adoption and child care, the federal law applies to both men and women. However, whether employees are paid for FMLA leave is a matter of agreement between the employee and the employer. If you have male employees who request leave under FMLA, don't assume that they're ineligible or only eligible for unpaid leave.
When the Family and Medical Leave Act was enacted, it guaranteed job protection for workers who had been previously denied job security when they took off work for health- and medical-related conditions, including pregnancy. Laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibited adverse employment action when employers believed women's family and personal obligations conflicted with the employers' expectations. FMLA, however, ensured that women and men would receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for a serious medical condition of their own or a family member with a serious medical condition. FMLA leave conditions are no different for men, as men also are entitled to take time off for welcoming a new baby to the family or for fulfilling any family responsibilities. If you're in a human resources leadership role, it's essential that you interpret FMLA regulations the same for women and men.
FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave if they have been employed for at least 12 months from the date on which the FMLA leave begins. During those 12 months, the employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours. Since the Labor Department doesn't determine what constitutes part-time or full-time status, that's a non-issue where FMLA is concerned. However, the 1,250-hour threshold is a requirement for eligibility. Eligible employees must work for employers covered under FMLA, so two issues determine whether FMLA leave is even available; the employee must be eligible and the employer must be covered.
The FMLA covers companies that employ at least 50 workers within a 75-mile radius for at least 20 weeks of the year. For example, a company that hires 38 employees to run a haunted house during October isn't a covered employer. Neither is an employer with 54 virtual employees spread across the United States covered under the FMLA. However, an organization with 50 employees who work the majority of the year in at least one location within a 75-mile radius is deemed a covered employee, and thus, required to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for eligible employees.
The federal government gives employers discretion to determine whether employees must use their accrued vacation and sick leave for payment during FMLA leave. If an employee doesn't have enough accrued paid time off to receive regular paychecks, he is likely not to be paid a regular salary or wage during all or part of his leave period. However, if he has saved enough vacation time and the company requires him to use paid time off during FMLA leave, he will be on paid FMLA leave.
Women and men are entitled to continuation of health coverage benefits when on FMLA leave. Employers are require to keep employees' health coverage intact throughout the entire leave period, and if the employee isn't receiving a paycheck while on leave, the employer can make arrangements for payment of the employee's contribution to monthly premiums for insurance coverage. In some cases, a man who is on FMLA leave -- not parental leave because he is not the disabled worker concerning childbirth -- may be entitled to partial pay if the company provides short-term disability. However, this must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Paid Paternity Leave
The FMLA covers parental leave for welcoming a new addition to the family. However, some companies take it a step further to offer paternity leave for men. If you're in a policy-making or strategic development role with your organization, consider studying employers' best practices for paternity leave. While some employers provide paid paternity leave, many don't, according to a December 2011 post titled, "Paternity Leave: What are the Options for Dads?" on the BabyCenter website. BabyCenter commends companies that offer paid leave and state laws that mandate paid leave for men. California, New Jersey and Washington are among the few states that mandate paid parental, or family, leave.
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.