The basic premise of the FMLA is pretty straightforward: Eligible employees are entitled to take job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.
But as HR pros know, the law has produced some tricky issues – and includes some rules that are not always readily apparent.
Time for a quick FMLA quiz
Here’s a pop quiz on one of those rules:
Susan works for an FMLA-covered employer on a full-time basis for three months before quitting for another job. The second job does not work out, and after just a month at it she returns to work for the first employer – again on a full-time basis. Nine months later, she gives birth and asks for FMLA leave. Is she entitled to it?
To be eligible for FMLA leave, employees must meet the following requirements:
- They must work for a covered employer for at least 12 months.
- They must have at least 1,250 hours of service with the employer during the previous 12 months.
- They must work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.
Two out of three?
In our example, Susan meets the 1,250-hour requirement, and the employer has enough employees to be subject to the statute’s requirements
That leaves one important question: Do Susan’s first three months of employment for the first employer count toward the 12-month requirement?
If they do, she has met all applicable requirements and is entitled to FMLA leave. If they do not and the 12-month clock restarted from the beginning when she returned, she is not.
The answer: The first three months do count for the purpose of calculating the applicable 12-month period.
Don’t forget about seasonal workers
The scenario described above is one example of how a break in service time may take place. Another example that may be more common: Employees who work on a seasonal basis. Remember: A break in service generally does not restart the clock for eligibility.
That is the general rule. Like many other rules, it has an exception.
The exception is this: If there is a break in service that lasts more than seven years, then the service period preceding the break is not counted toward the 12-month requirement.
Buckle up, because there is an exception to the exception. Here it is: If a seven-year break in service is due to military obligations or if a written agreement addresses the employer’s intention to rehire the employee after the break, then service from more than seven years earlier can be counted toward the FMLA 12-month requirement.
Administering FMLA properly can get tricky, and fast.
Remember this rule
Remember: When determining whether an employee has met the applicable 12-month service requirement, those 12 months do not need to be consecutive months of service.