The Family Medical Leave Act in Florida

Abstract

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law that must be followed by all public and private-sector employers under its jurisdiction. It helps employees to strike a balance between work and family commitments. The law grants workers up to 12 weeks of protected sick leave in one year. However, not all employees are covered by this act. The body responsible for the implementation of the law is the U.S Department of Labor (DOL).

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The agency also recommends the provisions to be used by both employees and employers. In this paper, the author discusses 3 family issues that led to the introduction of the act. They include birth and adoption, taking care of a seriously ill child, parent or spouse, and cases where the employee suffers from a severe health condition. In addition, the author analyzes the employers who are covered, as well as eligible and non-eligible workers. The analysis of this act is made in the context of its application in Florida.

The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 and its Application in Florida

According to Ossip (2006), FMLA requires all eligible employers to provide their workers with protected and unpaid leave. The break is granted for genuine medical and family reasons. The various factors entail adoption and placement of a child under the care of a foster home. The Medical Act is managed by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S DOL (Ossip, 2006). It is one of the legacies associated with President Bill Clinton’s tenure. Application of the new act started on August 5, 1993. The main objective of the law is to establish equilibrium between workplace demands and employee’s family needs. It entitles qualified employees to at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually. In this paper, the author will analyze some of the issues related to this act. The analysis will be made in the context of this act’s use in Florida.

Florida’s Family Medical Leave Act

Eligibility

Covered employers

Not all employers in Florida can apply for FMLA. Covered employers include those in the private sector, public agencies, and learning institutions (Pardeck, 2004). A private sector employer should have at least fifty employees in twenty or more work weeks. The number includes employees in the current or previous calendar year. Public agencies are required to adhere to the law regardless of the number of workers they have.

Eligible employees

In Florida, qualified employees are those who work for a covered employer and have been in the job for a minimum of one year (Aamodt, 2012). In addition, they should have worked for at least 1,250 hours within a period of 12 months. The time can be counted cumulatively. To meet the one year of work requirement, any duration within which the employee worked for the same employer is put into consideration (Ossip, 2006). In some instances, the time worked before the break is not counted. An example is where an employee takes a break of more than seven years. The duration can only be considered if the time-off was as a result of service under the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act [USERRA] (Aamodt, 2012).

Non-eligible employees

The FMLA law does not apply to employees in businesses with less than fifty staff members. However, public employers and local firms in Florida have to follow the act in spite of the number of employees. The other category of non-eligible employees includes part-time laborers who have worked for less than 1,250 hour (Aamodt, 2012). The hours are counted within a period of one year before the leave application.

FMLA on Births, Adoption, and Placement on Foster Care

In Florida and other states, the act has various definitions for a son or a daughter. They include a biological or adopted child. In addition, the act applies to a child under the care of an individual in the category of a loco parentis. The broad description is adopted to reveal the reality in the US (Pardeck, 2004). The FMLA law states that a worker with the day-to-day task of caring for a child is eligible for some time-off. In addition, it is not mandatory for the employee to have any biological or legal affiliation to the child.

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In Florida, an employee may apply for the leave prior to the actual adoption or placement of a child. However, this only applies if the process requires the worker’s presence. For example, the employee may be obligated to be present during counseling or court sessions. They may also be required to consult with the legal representative or doctor representing the biological parent (Ossip, 2006). The adoption firms in Florida do not influence the eligibility of the time-off.

An employee’s leave on the basis of adoption, foster care, and birth runs out at the end of the 12 month period. In Florida, both parents can apply for a FMLA leave during child birth (Pardeck, 2004). The birth time-off must be taken continuously. It can only be taken partially if the employer allows the parent to return to work on a part-time basis. In some cases, it can be extended if the law or employer allows. However, such a leave is no longer considered to be FMLA. A couple working for the same employer may be restricted to a collective total of 12 weeks of leave within the one year period (Aamodt, 2012). The limitation applies if the time-off is applied for to care for an adopted or new born baby. It also applies to couples employed by two diverse operating divisions of the same corporation. However, if one partner is not entitled to FMLA, then the other spouse is granted the full 12 weeks of break.

FMLA on Care for a Child, Parent, or Spouse with a Serious Health Condition

The act allows an employee to take up to 12 weeks of leave annually to care for a sick family member. The FMLA provides a working definition for a spouse, a parent, and a child. A spouse is a wife or a husband recognized under state law (Pardeck, 2004). A parent is a biological, adoptive, or step mother or father. It can also be a loco parentis person. The definition does not apply to parents-in-law.

A Florida employee is supposed to ask for a leave within the required time frame as stipulated in the act. The employer may ask for documents that indicate the employee’s relationship to the family member (Aamodt, 2012). The aim of this is to curb cases of abuse. In most instances, the employer only signs a sick leave when there is enough evidence. The evidence may entail a medical certificate from a recognized medical institution or practitioner. The documents should be provided within 15 days of the company’s request. If the employee is unable to meet the deadline, the period can be extended to a month. If the documentation is not provided within 30 days, the sick leave request is turned down (Morgan & Zippel, 2003).

Any fraction of the 13 days or 104 hours of family sick leave used within a year is deducted from the 12-week entitlement (Ossip, 2006). Generally, additional 13 family care leave days cannot be granted within the same year. The law is strictly followed especially in cases where the employee has used all the 12 weeks allocated.

FMLA for Employee’s Own Serious Health Condition

A serious health condition is one that requires an employee to be cared for in a medical facility (Aamodt, 2012). It is also any stage of incapacity treatment that requires strict and continuous care by a legally licensed healthcare expert. As a result, it makes the employee unable to fully perform their duties. The medical act covers long-term health complications that lead to frequent intervals of sick leave (Morgan & Zippel, 2003). Any condition that forces a worker to stay from duty for three consecutive days within a single week is viewed as a severe health problem. In Florida, employees who suffer from chronic diseases are required to make a minimum of two hospital visits each year (Pardeck, 2004).

A request for sick-off to care for one’s health requires medical documentations. The documents should be provided before the leave begins. The employer has the right to contact the employee’s healthcare expert (Morgan & Zippel, 2003). In addition, employers in Florida may seek a second opinion. If a consensus is not reached, a third doctor is called in. In such a case, the employer and employee agree on who will be the third medical expert. The expenses of the final test are paid for by the employer.

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Medical documents should address a number of key issues. They include the date when the illness first occurred and how long it will persist. Another important element is the medical facts pertaining to the illness. The employee may be required to avail a new set of medical evidence every new leave year. The requirement applies in cases where the sick leave surpasses FMLA’s stipulated time limits.

Taking Undue Advantage of Family and Medical Leave

There are instances where employees take advantage of the leave. The employer is required to continue catering for their health. Employers in Florida must provide an assurance that the employee will occupy the same position when they return. If an employee fails to resume to work as a result of reasons not related to serious health problems, instant action is taken by the company. The employer has the right to ask the worker to refund the money paid for the health insurance premium at the time of the leave (Aamodt, 2012).

To guarantee payment, the employer makes deductions from the worker’s payroll. In addition, the employee must continue paying even during unpaid leave. The health cover taken for the employee may also be dropped. The discontinuation occurs in cases where the payment is delayed by a period of more than 30 days. In such situations, the employer provides a notice of 15 days before the coverage is dropped.

Implications of FMLA in Florida

FMLA has various benefits in Florida (Ossip, 2006). It helps employees to cater for their needs and those of their families. However, the act has adverse effects on the workplace. It may disrupt the flow of work. For example, in Florida, employers may receive a leave notification the same day a serious health condition occurs. The law also has cost implications. The benefits are not provided for free. During the formulation of the act, these costs were not catered for (Pardeck, 2004). Even today, this element has not been quantified. The main reason is because it is not easy to identify costs.

The cost of implementing FMLA surpasses the expectations of most employers (Aamodt, 2012). Employees in Florida also tend to abuse the intermittent leave. Some come up with very convincing medical documents about chronic illnesses that are not as serious as stated. In some cases, the employer is unable to determine the validity of the reports. The leave also results in lost productivity. In addition, implementation of the act is very expensive to many companies. For example, in Florida, a company has to pay for litigation, human resource management, and administration.

The act has implications on non-covered establishments in Florida. A survey conducted on 2000 organizations reveals that more than 89 percent of businesses in the U.S are not covered by the act (Aamodt, 2012). Most of these establishments provide leave for two reasons only. The two are maternity and employee’s own serious health condition. To cater for sick absentees, non-covered companies in Florida assign temporary work to other staff members.

Conclusion

FMLA has helped many employees in Florida to carry out their jobs and meet the needs of their families. However, the application for leave does not require the utilization of a specific form. The U.S Labor Department has optional forms for each type of request required. An employer should not deny a worker time-off if the reasons are valid.

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References

Aamodt, M. (2012). Industrial/organizational psychology: An applied approach (7th ed.). New York: Cengage Learning.

Morgan, K., Zippel, K. (2003). Paid to care: The origins and effects of care leave policies in Western Europe. Social Politics, 10, 49-85.

Ossip, M. (2006). The Family and Medical Leave Act. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of National Affairs.

Pardeck, J. (2004). A commentary on the United States Supreme Court ruling on the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Journal of Social Work in Disability & Rehabilitation, 3(1), 79-81.

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