“Save Ferris” and Your Time Off
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around for a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Truer words have not been spoken. For many, this iconic 1980’s classic defined and era and a generation. It was a time of economic booms and fast living. Everything was getting bigger, better, and advancing very quickly. It was easy to get wrapped up in the rat race and ignore what young Ferris Bueller was warning us all about. Fast forward almost thirty years and not much has changed. Arguably society is speeding through life even faster than Cameron’s father’s red 1961 Ferrari 250GT (before it crash landed, of course). It is as important today to stop and take stock in our lives, our health, and that of our loved ones than ever before.
Yet, Americans continue to lead developed nations in hours worked per year. For example, according to the International Labour Organization (a special agency of the United Nations).* Americans on an average year work 137 more hours per years than Japanese workers, 260 more hours than British workers, and 499 hours more than French worker. And the work has not gotten any easier. With foreign competition increasing and workloads shrinking, the demands by our employers on our time at work have multiplied. As a result, some people have become hesitant to take much if any time off. Whether it is due to a fear of how their colleagues will view them, fear of missing opportunities for career advancement and promotion, or reprisals from their employers, time off is becoming more and more taboo. In addition, coming out of a down economy, many people might simply feel fortunate to have a job at all and do not want to rock the boat with a request for an extended period of time-off.
However, sometimes there are certain life events – some unpredictable and some planned – that give even our work focused American society pause and demand that we, like young Ferris, stop and look around for awhile. Births, deaths, accidents, medical diagnoses are all examples of how life happens, happily or otherwise, when we are making other plans. But how can we take off work without risking our job?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) is one option that may help. It provides unpaid time off due to the serious health condition of an employee or an employee’s immediate family member. Happily, for many new and existing parents a “serious health condition” includes the birth of a child. However, only certain employers, known as “covered employers,” are required to comply with this law. Additionally, employees must meet certain basic requirements before they are entitled to the leave.
This article will guide you to know whether you are entitled to unpaid time off without risking your job.
Only employers who are considered “covered” under this federal law must comply. Public agencies are all covered, as are elementary and secondary schools. However, private employers are only covered by the FMLA if all of the following apply:
- Employed at least 50 employees
- In 20 or more workweeks
- In the current or preceding calendar year
If your employer doesn’t meet these requirements, you are not entitled to unpaid leave and if you take unapproved time off, your job could be at risk.
When FMLA leave is requested for an employee or an immediate family member, the qualifying health condition must be considered “serious.” This means that the affected person either requires inpatient care or a continuing course of treatment. In addition, an employee must meet the following requirements:
- Worked for a covered employer
- For at least 1,250 hours
- In the prior 12 months
- At a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles
- Does not qualify as a “key” employee
Once these requirements are met, an employee may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, as long as proper, timely documentation is provided. An employer may require an eligible employee to submit a certification from a health care provider to support the request for FMLA leave. The employer may also require additional medical opinions, at its own expense.
If the need for leave is foreseeable, the request for FMLA leave must be submitted 30 days in advance. If the need is not foreseeable, the request must be provided as soon as possible and practicable. An employer may require an employee to substitute paid leave to cover part or all of the 12-week period.
FMLA leave may be taken all at once, intermittently, or on a reduced schedule. For example, one employee may need to take off eight weeks after the birth of a baby; another may need to take leave from time to time for migraine headaches or cancer treatments.
The employer must continue existing group health care coverage during the period of leave. The employer may also request re-certification at reasonable intervals. At the end of the leave, the employee must be placed in his or her former job or one that is substantially equivalent.
If you have more questions about taking time off from work without reprisal, please do not hesitate to contact us. One of the ways Snyder Law supports our family of clients is by being the trusted legal counsel they can turn to no matter what comes their way. If you are not yet part of the Snyder Law client family and would love a trusted advisor by your side, consider starting with a Family Estate Planning Session during which we will guide you to be more financially and personally organized than you’ve ever been before.
* http://www.ilo.org/global/lang–en/index.htm (August 24, 2015).