Can Your Employer Require You to Use FMLA Leave?
The short answer is, yes, but with one important condition: Your employer must tell you that it is doing so at the time you take your leave under the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – not afterward.
Whether you work in Pennsylvania or another state, under the FMLA you only get a maximum of 12 weeks of unpaid leave in any 12-month period. The leave can be used to recover from a serious medical condition, to care for a close relative with a serious medical condition, or for the birth or adoption of a child. You don’t have to take the 12 weeks all at the same time. Instead, you can use it intermittently throughout the year.
FMLA Leave Concurrent with Other Time Off
The unpaid FMLA leave time can run concurrently with other types of leave time – such as paid time off. Say, for example, you need time away from work to recover from knee surgery – an FMLA-covered condition. But you want to designate that time off as paid vacation or sick time to save your 12 total FMLA weeks for later in the year when your aging parent will need help recovering from back surgery.
Can your employer start the clock on those 12 FMLA weeks during your paid leave for knee surgery? Absolutely, so long as it notifies you it is doing so.
But what if your employer does not notify you, and then later tries to retroactively designate the time off you took for knee surgery as FMLA time? If you can show you were harmed by the failure to notify you – for example, you might have put off knee surgery for another time – then under FMLA regulations, your employer must give you the 12 weeks to care for your parent.
FMLA and Workers’ Compensation
The same principle holds true with workers’ compensation leave. If you take time off to recover from a work-related illness or injury under a workers’ compensation program, that time could also count toward your 12 FMLA weeks if your employer designates it as such.
An FMLA Attorney Can Help You Protect Your Rights
The FMLA provides basic protections for employees dealing with family and medical issues. But they are limited. Most employees aren’t FMLA experts, but your human resources manager probably is. If you don’t know your rights, your employer could deny you your rightful time off without you even being aware of it. If you think you’ve been treated unfairly, call us to review your case.