Does Your Employer Give You More Benefits Under FMLA Than You Are Entitled To? Check the Employer Handbook.
Like many state and federal labor and employment laws, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) sets the floor, not the ceiling on what is required of an employer. Does your employer give you more benefits under FMLA than you are entitled to? Check the employer handbook. Generally, FMLA requires covered Employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period to any eligible Employee who needs time off:
- For a serious health condition that prevents him or her from performing the essential functions of the job
- To care for the Employee’s spouse, son, daughter or parent where that family member has a serious health condition
- For the birth of a child of the Employee, in order to care for the child
- For the placement of an adopted or foster child with the Employee
The question remains, however, how does an employee become eligible for receive FMLA benefits? To be covered under FMLA, generally, an employee must meet three basic criteria:
- He has been employed by a covered employer for 12 months;
- He has worked 1,250 hours worked during the 12-month period before his requested leave begins; and
- He works at a location where his employer employs 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of that location.
If the above criteria are not met, an employee may not be eligible for FMLA coverage – unless the Employer doesn’t require that criteria for coverage. In the case of Tilley v. Kalamazoo County Road Commission (http://www.fmlainsights.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/311/2015/01/Tilley-v.-Kalamazoo-County-Road-Commission.pdf) the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found that an employer’s handbook that spelled out the requirements for FMLA eligibility, and which did not include the 50/75 employee requirement, was a defense to the employer’s claim that the employee was not eligible based on the 50/75 employee requirement. In Tilley, the employee requested FMLA leave for a heart attack. Three days later he was fired for reasons purportedly unrelated to his leave. The employer maintained that Tilley was not eligible for FMLA because the employer did not meet the requirement that he work at a location where his employer employs 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius. Tilley maintained that the employer was equitably estopped from making that claim because the employer’s handbook did not include that requirement in its language describing how employees become eligible for FMLA benefits and because he reasonably relied on that language when he decided to not report to work and complete some of the job requirements that the employer cited as one of the reasons for his discharge. The Court of Appeals rejected the employer’s argument that Tilley was not an eligible employee as a matter of law based on the 50/75 requirement and remanded the case for further proceedings.
If you are in need of FMLA and you are not sure whether you meet the eligibility requirements under the law, check your employer handbook. If the employer’s requirements are not as stringent as the law, you may still be eligible.