State Law Affects FMLA Eligibility
The federal Family Medical Leave Act allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave in a 12-month period for specific reasons, including to care for a newborn, an adopted child or a family member who has a serious health condition.
In some cases, an employee may be able to take up to 26 weeks of FMLA leave, such as to care for a service member who is seriously ill.
Employees must meet other requirements to qualify for FMLA leave. For example, they must work at a location that has no fewer than 50 workers within a 75-mile radius, and they must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months, or 1,250 hours, during the previous 12 months.
When measuring the 12-month period during which an employee is allowed to use his or her FMLA leave, employers can apply any of the following four methods:
- The calendar year.
- Any fixed 12-month period, such as the employee's anniversary date or your company's fiscal year.
- Measuring the 12-month period forward from when the employee's first FMLA leave starts.
- Measuring the 12-month period backward from the date the employee takes any FMLA leave.
The federal FMLA sets minimum standards; therefore, states can establish more generous FMLA provisions for employees. New Jersey, Minnesota, California, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin are just some of the states that have their own family and medical leave laws. For example, some states mandate paid family leave or have a broader definition of covered family members.
Employees are under no obligation to say whether the family and medical leave they are requesting is related to the FMLA or state law — so it's up to employers to ensure employees receive whichever one provides the greater benefit.
When it comes to determining eligibility time periods for state family and medical leave, many states mirror the federal law's calculation methods. However, some states limit the calculation methods that can be utilized. For example, Wisconsin's Family and Medical Leave Act requires that employers use the calendar year when figuring an employee's 12-month eligibility period.
If your employees are entitled to family and medical leave under both federal and state law, they should receive all the leave time available to them under both statutes. But you'll need to verify whether federal and state leave can be exhausted at the same time or whether they must be taken separately.
Keep in mind that there are different types of state family and medical leave. For instance, the state may provide comprehensive family and medical leave (similar to the federal FMLA but with more benefits), pregnancy disability leave, adoption leave, school/parental leave, paid sick leave, and/or domestic violence leave. But if the state has no family and medical leave laws of its own, the federal FMLA may be the appropriate choice.