Employees need to work at least 1,250 hours in a year to qualify for FMLA leave. But the lines can often blur regarding what counts as hours worked. Here’s some clarification.
To be eligible for FMLA, an employee must have worked for a company for at least 12 months (not necessarily consecutively) and logged 1,250 work hours in the previous year. However, not all hours count toward the 1,250. Here’s an example:
An employee opted to wrk in a “weekender program,” a 12-hour shift on Saturdays and Sundays. For doing so, she received a bonus equivalent to 10 hours’ pay. When she asked to take FMLA leave for a surgical procedure, her employer balked – according to its records, she hadn’t worked the required 1,250 hours.
The woman took the time anyway, and was fired.
She sued, claiming that she would have met the 1,250-hour requirement if her employer had included the 10 hours as actual time worked.
But the judge sided with the company. The bonus hours were an incentive, not time actually worked. So they didn’t count toward the FMLA threshold.
Cite: Mutchler v. Dunlap Memorial Hospital, 2007
Case in point: The FMLA hourly requirement isn’t exactly straightforward. But here are some guidelines on employee eligibility and FMLA:
The 1,250 work hours are defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act. Paid or unpaid vacation, paid or unpaid sick time, previous FMLA leave or other leave hours don’t count towards the 1,250.
Even if an employee continues to use intermittent leave for an extended period of time, companies can apply the test for 1,250 work hours only once in the FMLA year.
It’s important to remember that an employee needs to satisfy both the 1,250 work-hour and the 12-month eligibility requirement to take FMLA leave. There are several options for determining the 12-month eligibility period:
- The calendar year
- Any fixed 12-month period, like a fiscal year
- The 12-month period that begins with the first day of FMLA or
- A “rolling” 12-month period that’s measured backward from the date the employee uses any FMLA leave.