8.1. 5 Questions You & Your Family Are Asking About the FMLA
Though it is undeniably taxing to live with a spinal cord injury (SCI), it's also important not to disregard the physical and emotional demands of caring for a loved one with spinal trauma. This is especially a concern immediately after the trauma occurs or if complications arise. Attending work every day can seem nearly impossible on top of the additional aid of an injured or ill family member. Those caring for a loved one can take time to learn how to balance workplace and medical demands by opting for FMLA leave. Read the following FMLA guidelines to learn about provisions and employee privileges.
1. What is the FMLA?
The Wage and Hour Division, administered by The U.S. Department of Labor, describes the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA full text) as entitlement for eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for family and medical reasons. The premise of FMLA is an employee may be incapable of performing basic job functions because of the health condition or needs of a sick or injured loved one. Under a covered employer, the employee can take 12 unpaid workweeks of leave during a period of 12 months to care for family member who has suffered an SCI or other debilitating medical setback. The employee's group health insurance coverage will continue without changing terms or conditions.
2. What is the purpose of FMLA?
The act is intended to help families respond to a family member's injury or medical needs while balancing home and work responsibilities. The act provides job security and contributes to economic stability for family members that take unpaid leave, thus preserving the integrity of our nation's families.
3. Do I qualify?
Employees are eligible for FMLA if they're employed by a public agency or a private sector organization that has employed 50 or more workers for at least 20 workweeks in the last year. Employees must work at the location or within 75 miles of it. Public and local education agencies are also covered. An eligible employee will have worked for the employer for 12 months minimum and put in at least 1,250 hours during that 12-month period.
For example, if you live with chronic back pain, and you are considering undergoing a minimally invasive back surgery at one of Laser Spine Institute's five country-wide locations, you could possibly qualify for FMLA and get the relief you need while guaranteeing an equivalent job with equivalent pay is still there upon your return.
4. How do I apply?
Speak with your company's HR representative, and expect to provide appropriate medical information and health insurance certification for requesting leave. Typically, you'll have to request leave 30 days in advance or as soon as possible during an emergency. The U.S. Department of Labor advises that first-time employees requesting leave don't have to mention the FMLA, even if the reason qualifies under FMLA guidelines.
5. What else do I need to know?
SCI patients should keep the following in mind when seeking FMLA employment leave:
Qualified employees taking FMLA leave shouldn't experience employer retaliation, job loss, benefits denial or discrimination. If so, take legal action.
If you're taking leave to care for an "immediate family member," federal law dictates that immediate family members are parents, spouses and children. Check your state's labor laws and HR to see if a sibling or domestic partner, for example, qualifies as an immediate family member.
You may want to or be required to take paid leave first. Paid leave time is excluded from the amount of time you'll take with FMLA leave.