The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that grants eligible employees in California the right to take unpaid leave for certain family or medical reasons without the risk of losing their job.
While this law aims to provide job protection and security to employees during critical times, employers must be vigilant to avoid common mistakes that can lead to legal troubles.
1. Failure to recognize eligibility
Employers should be well-versed in the eligibility criteria for FMLA. In California, employees are eligible if they have worked for the company for at least 12 months, accrued 1,250 hours in the past year and the company has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.
2. Inadequate notice and documentation
Employers often make the mistake of not providing proper notice and documentation to employees seeking FMLA leave. Employees need to know their FMLA rights and responsibilities, and employers must maintain meticulous records of all leave-related communications. This includes tracking the amount of leave taken and the reasons for it.
3. Failing to maintain job protection
Employers must ensure that an employee’s job stays protected while on FMLA leave. A common error is assigning the employee’s duties to someone else permanently, which violates FMLA provisions. Upon return from leave, employees need reinstatement to their original or equivalent positions.
4. Confusing state and federal laws
California has its own state FMLA-like law, the California Family Rights Act, which provides similar protections to FMLA but with some differences. Employers must ensure they understand and comply with both federal and state regulations to avoid legal pitfalls.
In 2022, the FMLA dealt with 780 complaints, resulting in $870,077 in back wages. By adhering to FMLA guidelines, employers can create a supportive and respectful work environment while avoiding potential legal and financial repercussions.