You may already know that, depending on your eligibility and the size of the company you work for, you are entitled to time off under the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act). Based on federal law, if you are eligible, you are can take up to 12 weeks of leave within a 12-month period. What few employees understand, however, is exactly how their FMLA time is calculated. It may not seem important at first, but when your employer tells you that you have exhausted all of your FMLA leave time, it may become an issue if you still need to be off work.
Four Methods of Calculating FMLA Time Under the statute
The FMLA provides four methods for calculating an employee's 12-week leave entitlement. Employers can choose from any of these four methods when determining allotted time off. Understanding the approach taken by your employer can help you make the best use of your FMLA leave.
Your leave may be calculated as follows:
- Based on a calendar year.
- Based on some other defined and fixed 12-month period.
- Based on the first day an employee uses FMLA leave.
- Based on a rolling 12-month period, measured backward from the date an employee uses any FMLA leave.
While an employer is free to choose from these methods, the chosen method must be applied consistently amongst all employees. If the employer changes methods, all employees must receive at least 60 days' notice.
Leave Options for Fixed 12-month Period Methods
The calendar year method runs from January 1st through December 31st each year. This method is very simple to keep track of and can be very beneficial to employees. An employee could potentially be entitled to 24 weeks of consecutive leave, if the first 12 weeks are taken at the end of one calendar year and the second 12 weeks taken the first of the next calendar year.
Similarly, an employer could designate any other fixed 12-month period, such as a fiscal year (October 1 through September 30). This arrangement would offer the same potential for doubling up on consecutive leave time as the calendar year method.
On the other hand, the method of "measuring forward" eliminates the potential for double consecutive leave time. The period of leave entitlement begins the first day an employee takes FMLA leave. So, for example, if an employee's FMLA leave begins on November 3, 2015, the 12-month period would run through November 2, 2016. These first three methods are basically self-explanatory; however, the rolling 12-month method tends to cause a lot of confusion and controversy.
Calculating Time off Under an FMLA "Rolling 12-month Period"
Under this method, every time an employee takes FMLA leave, the remaining leave entitlement would be the balance of the 12 weeks that was not used within the preceding 12 months. The FMLA's regulations provide guidance on how this method works. This method is particularly difficult for the employer to administrate, but it is often favored because it prevents overlap in leave which could occur using the calendar year method, for instance.
Regardless of how your employer chooses to calculate FMLA leave periods, the most important thing to remember is that your employer must disclose to you which method is being used when you request FMLA leave. If the employer does not make this disclosure and the matter is taken to court, the court will apply the method that will result in the most beneficial outcome for the employee.
Need an Employment Law Attorney?
Have you faced any issues concerning FMLA leave in your workplace? If you have any questions about your entitlement to leave or would like to discuss other matters involving your employment rights, please contact Michel | King Michel & Kingtoday. Our experienced Birmingham employment lawyers are ready to discuss your situation in an initial case review.