Family and Medical Leave Act On August 5, 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act became effective for most of the employers and employees covered by the act. The FMLA is designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons, including serious health conditions that prevent the employee from working. Not only has the FMLA evolved over the years, but also the current application in the workplace environment is very complex for the employee as well as the employer. Over the years, FMLA has evolved into a one of the most discussed and complex laws in the United States. Since 1993, over 35 million eligible workers have taken leave for family or medical reasons. For all the employers covered by the act, 80 percent reported that it had a positive effect or noticeable effect on business productivity, profitability and growth.

(web) As the FMLA has evolved, it has had positive effects on both employees and employers. However, even though it is very effective, it is also a very complex law. FMLA covers private sector employers that employ 50 or more individuals. Public employers are covered under FMLA no matter how many workers they employ. The FMLA requires covered employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees for childbirth or care of a child, adoption, their own serious illness or that of a close family member. To be eligible for FMLA, the employee needs to be working for at least 12 months prior to the beginning of the leave for their employer.

However, those 12 months do not need to be consecutive. This would be known as "history of employment." For example, a person employed by a company for 10 months decides to go work for another company, and later reemployed by their previous employer for an additional 10 months would meet this history portion. In addition, not only does the employee need to have worked 12 months, but regulations also state that the employee needs to have worked at least 1, 250 hours during those 12 months preceding the leave. Once an employee is determined eligible for FMLA, the employer must submit the correct form to the employee. After receiving the forms the employee must decide which type of leave he or she will take. The three options are continuous, intermittent, or reduced schedule leave.

Most FMLA cases fall under continuous leave. This is where an employee must take more than three consecutive calendar days for the qualifying reason. Once the employer recognizes that the employee is going to need more than three consecutive days off, he or she must provide the proper FMLA forms within two business days and start tracking the leave time. The employer must do this whether or not the employee has requested FMLA leave or not.

Intermittent leave can be another option for the employee. This leave is where an employee does not need to take more than three consecutive days off, but will need to be missing a couple hours of certain work days do to qualifying reasons. Even if the total time does not exceed three full workdays, time taken during the intermittent leave is counted toward the 12 weeks of FMLA coverage. Employees may also take reduced scheduled leave. During the reduced scheduled leave, the employee is usually required to work less each day or each week. Reduction in the employees schedule do to FMLA reasons, will count against the 12-week leave.

Upon returning from FMLA leave, the employee is entitled to be returned to his previous position that he had held before his leave. If the position is no longer available, he or she is entitled to one that is virtually identical to the former position in terms of pay, work environment, status and benefits. In addition, the leave must not be held against the employee in other ways, including when it comes to promotion or annual review. (Harris, Lukesh, and Russell) With the positive effects on both employers and employees, it is easy to see why the FMLA is one of the most discussed and complex law in the United States. Making sure you are eligible is the first step in taking one of the three leave options.

I hope that with more discussions and cases that are being tried everyday, the FMLA will keep evolving into helping our workplace environment be more secure. Reference PageS. Harris, E. Lukesh, and P. Russell.

Human Resouces Services. web 1003 fam med leave. htm FMLA survey and statistics website. web.