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Businesses must recognize employee rights under FMLA

Employees in the Dallas area may be interested to know that, if they work for a business employing at least 50 individuals, it is likely that they are protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act. This act requires businesses to make certain employee rights known to its workers.

Under FMLA, employees are entitled to a leave of absence when family and medical issues arise. Though the leave is unpaid, an employee's job is protected during that period, and they are covered by the same health insurance they held while working.

An eligible employee may take 12 weeks of leave in 12 months for a child's birth or adoption, the care of a parent, child or spouse with a severe health problem, the employee's severe health condition or situations related to a child, spouse or parent's military duty. Alternatively, a worker can take 26 weeks of leave if they are responsible for the medical care of a parent, child or spouse who is a military member and has a severe illness or injury.

The Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers to take specific steps so that workers are aware of their rights. A business must post in an area open to all workers a notice that explains FMLA protections and obligations.

When an employee chooses to take a leave of absence, the employer is responsible for determining if the leave qualifies for FMLA protections. If so, it must notify the employee of this status.

Businesses may choose whether or not to require a worker to provide medical certification for absences related to serious illness or injury. But if the employer decides to require certification for one case of health-related leave, it must be required in all such cases.

Finally, upon return from an FMLA leave, an employer must allow a worker to return to their initial position or a position that is equivalent.

Source: Reuters, "An Employer's FMLA Legal Responsibilities," Andrew Lu, July 19, 2012

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