Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in Texas

What Texas Workers Need to Know About the Family Medical Leave Act

Family Medical Leave Act in Texas The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is America’s comprehensive family leave legislation, but there are many exceptions and loopholes within the law. In addition to federal protections, many states have passed family leave laws of their own.

To protect yourself, make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities under FMLA as an employee or employer. This post provides a general guide to some frequently asked questions about the Family Medical Leave Act in Texas.

FMLA Topics Covered Here:

What is FMLA?

The Family Medical Leave Act (also known as FMLA) is a federal law passed in 1993 which provides limited protections for employees that need time off work for medical leave for themselves or a family member. It allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of time off work without risk of termination. FMLA leave is unpaid.

FMLA allows you to take unpaid time off work for the following reasons:

 

Who Is Eligible for FMLA?

Not everyone qualifies for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. An employee is eligible to take leave through FMLA if you meet the following conditions:

 

How Much Time Off Can I Take for Family Medical Leave?

Generally, a worker is allowed to take off work for up to 12 weeks within a 12-month period. An exception is made for employees that are caring for a family member who was injured during active military service. In these cases, up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave is allowed at a time to care for a service-connected disability. However, leave is permitted on a per-injury, per-family member basis. You will not be able to take FMLA leave again the next year, unless it is to care for a different family member or a new injury.

Employers can require employees to use their paid vacation or sick days concurrently with FMLA leave. For example, if an employee has saved up 2 weeks of paid vacation, his company is not obligated to provide the 2 weeks of paid time off, in addition to 12 weeks of unpaid leave through FMLA. Instead, the employee may only be offered 12 weeks of total leave (2 weeks paid and 10 weeks unpaid).

 

What Qualifies as a Serious Health Condition?

FMLA considers the following situations to be a “serious health condition”:

 

Can I Keep My Health Insurance and Benefits?

An employee can keep his health insurance while on leave through FMLA. If your health insurance premiums are automatically deducted from your paycheck, you may need to pay out-of-pocket for your health insurance until your paychecks resume.

Your employer is responsible for making the necessary arrangements for you to pay your health insurance contribution. However, an employer is not allowed to ask you to pay more than what you normally pay for insurance while on leave.

If you do not return to work after taking leave under FMLA, your employer may be entitled to reimbursement for any health insurance premiums they paid during your absence.

Certain other benefits, including life insurance coverage and accrual of paid time off, are not guaranteed under the Family Medical Leave Act. Employers often choose to continue these benefits as an incentive for the employee to return to work after FMLA leave, but are not required to do so.

 

Intermittent or Reduced Schedule Leave

Intermittent and reduced leave allows an employee to take off work for small increments of time, for the equivalent of up to 12 work weeks (480 hours for a full-time employee). Someone may use intermittent leave to work shortened days, or to take off one day a week. You can take as little as one hour of FMLA leave at a time.

Similarly, if you are taking FMLA leave to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, or parent, intermittent or reduced schedule leave must be necessary to properly care for them. If you qualify for intermittent and reduced schedule leave, you will be able to take off work as needed, and your employer will not be able to deny your leave. You will also remain eligible for health insurance benefits during this time. However, restrictions and special rules apply for intermittent leave.

You can take intermittent leave for personal medical purposes or to care for a spouse, parent, or child with a serious health condition. For example, if someone requires physical therapy twice a week, she can take FMLA leave to go to her appointments. You may be asked to show proof that intermittent leave is medically necessary for you or the person you are caring for.
 

FMLA and Maternity Leave in Texas

FMLA Maternity Leave TexasLike many other states, Texas does not mandate any kind of maternity or parental leave, paid or unpaid. Generally, employers in Texas are not allowed to treat you adversely for pregnancy-related reasons. (Very small businesses with less than 15 employees are exempt from this rule.)

Although Texas does not have a state law requiring any leave or short-term disability for expecting and new mothers, your employer may offer these benefits. Federal laws also exist to provide protection to many (but not all) Texas families in need of maternity leave.

Maternity Leave in Texas under FMLA

FMLA allows many mothers to take time off during pregnancy (if needed), while recovering after giving birth, and to care for and bond with her new child. Fathers who are eligible employees are able to take up to 12 weeks of leave as well, to care for and bond with his new child.

You can take your maternity leave through FMLA any time up to twelve months after the birth of your child. Some mothers choose to use sick days and vacation time to recover from childbirth and then take FMLA leave later in the year when it works better for their families.

You may also qualify for intermittent leave or a reduced schedule through FMLA. However, employers are only required to grant intermittent and reduced leave if it is medically necessary.

All leave taken for FMLA purposes is unpaid, but your employer can require you to take all available paid and unpaid leave as part of your FMLA leave. For example, if you have saved up four weeks of paid vacation and/or sick days, you might be required to use all four weeks of your paid time off first, then take up to eight additional weeks of unpaid leave.

When you return to work after maternity leave through FMLA, you should be reinstated to the same position, or an equivalent job with the same pay, benefits, and work conditions. If you do not return to work when your FMLA leave is over, your employer may ask you to reimburse the share of health insurance benefits they paid while you were off.

When Both Parents Work for the Same Company

You may also qualify for intermittent leave or a reduced schedule through FMLA. However, employers are only required to grant intermittent and reduced leave if it is medically necessary.

All leave taken for FMLA purposes is unpaid, but your employer can require you to take all available paid and unpaid leave as part of your FMLA leave. For example, if you have saved up four weeks of paid vacation and/or sick days, you might be required to use all four weeks of your paid time off first, then take up to eight additional weeks of unpaid leave.

When you return to work after maternity leave through FMLA, you should be reinstated to the same position, or an equivalent job with the same pay, benefits, and work conditions. If you do not return to work when your FMLA leave is over, your employer may ask you to reimburse the share of health insurance benefits they paid while you were off.

Intermittent Maternity Leave

There are many reasons an expecting mother may need to use intermittent leave through FMLA. Someone with a high-risk pregnancy may have multiple doctor’s appointments every week. A pregnant woman may also have other restrictions, such as bed rest, that requires her to work a lighter schedule. Intermittent pregnancy leave that is necessary for medical reasons should be accommodated.

New mothers and fathers may be able to take intermittent parental leave, with the permission of their employers. This encourages secure attachment between parent and child, and eases the transition back to work for both the parents and the new baby.

However, because intermittent parental leave may not be medically necessary, it is important to get the approval of your employer. You should request intermittent leave at least 30 days before it is needed, or as soon as it is foreseeable.

 

Procedure for Applying for FMLA Leave

As soon as you think you made need to take FMLA leave, inform your employer or human resources department right away. Every company has its own policies and procedures for applying for leave through FMLA. There will be paperwork involved for both you and your employer. These forms can take time to process and be approved, so be sure to allow plenty of time.

Employees requesting to use FMLA leave might be asked to provide:

 

Employer Responsibilities

Employers that are required to provide coverage through FMLA are also obligated to share information about FMLA with their employees. They must do so in the following ways:

 

Teachers’ Rights Under FMLA in Texas

Teachers Rights Under FMLA TexasThe demands of leading a classroom and the academic calendar make teachers a special case in employment law. Special rules apply to educators in public and private schools (but not in preschools, colleges, and other educational institutions).

FMLA Rights and Protections for Teachers

FMLA allows teachers and other employees to take unpaid leave for the following reasons:

The school district can require teachers to use their paid vacation, sick days, and other leave concurrently with FMLA leave. A teacher may be required to use all paid and unpaid personal days, sick days, and other leave as part of the 12-week FMLA leave.

Limitations on Intermittent Leave for Teachers

For teachers that normally do not work summers, summer vacation does not count against your FMLA leave entitlement. If you are on FMLA leave at the end of the school year, your employer is also required to provide you with any benefits over summer vacation that you would have received if you had been working.

However, public school boards and private schools are not required to grant intermittent or reduced leave in the same capacity as most employers. To avoid disruption to the classroom, the school may ask you to take your leave as a block, or transfer to a similar position that can better accommodate your schedule. If you foresee needing intermittent or reduced leave in the near future, it is best to inform human resources as soon as you can so the proper arrangements can be made.

Leave Near the End of an Academic Term

If your FMLA leave is likely to last more than three weeks or have you return in the last three weeks of the semester, the school board may require you to continue your leave until the end of the term. If you begin leave with less than five weeks left in the term, the employer can require you to remain on leave until the end of the semester, if you plan on taking off more than two weeks or returning in the last two weeks of school.

Duration of FMLA Leave

If you are required to take leave until the end of the term, only the leave you wanted to take is counted as FMLA leave. However, if you are required to take your intermittent leave as a block, the entire leave is counted as FMLA leave.

If your employer requires you to remain on leave until the end of the semester beyond FMLA, they are still responsible for maintaining your health benefits coverage during that time and over the summer, if applicable. Requiring additional leave after FMLA entitlement ends does not absolve the employer from reinstating the employee to the same or equivalent position upon her return.

Reinstatement to an Equivalent Position

For teachers that are being assigned to an “equivalent” position, the special rules dictate the restoration must be based on the school board or private school’s policies and practices, as well as collective bargaining agreements.

The basis for restoration must be given to the employee in writing before the leave is taken. The restoration must still provide equivalent pay, benefits, and working conditions, and may not require any additional licensure.

Special Rules for Teachers

Teachers and other instructors at public and private schools (K-12) are given different rules regarding intermittent leave. A teacher’s employer, typically the school board, is not required to grant intermittent leave in the same capacity as most employers.

If you need to take leave for medical reasons, they can require you to take your leave as a block or accept a different job within the school that better accommodates you. If your leave is scheduled to end near the end of the academic term, the school board can also require you to extend your leave to the end of the semester.

Who Is Exempt from FMLA?

Places of business with less than 50 employees are not required to comply with FMLA regulations. This includes employers which hire more than 50 employees seasonally for less than twenty weeks out of the year. The 50+ employee threshold includes workers within a 75-mile radius, so companies with more than 50 employees spread across a wide geographic area may also be exempt from FMLA.

 

State Protections and Rights in Texas

Although employers in Texas must abide by federal FMLA laws, Texas does not have its own comprehensive family medical leave program. State law in Texas does extend the FMLA leave protections to employees caring for foster children. Any company in Texas with more than 15 employees that offers time off work to care for a sick child must give foster parents equal leave to care for a sick foster child.

 

What Happens When I Return to Work?

When an employee returns to work after FMLA leave, he is generally guaranteed a position that is the same or equal to the position he worked in before the leave. An “equivalent” position must be equal in pay, benefits, and work conditions. However, there are exceptions to this rule.

In a situation where a highly-paid salaried employee’s reinstatement would cause a company “substantial and grievous economic injury,” the employer may not be required to reinstate her. The employer must notify the employee of her “key employee” status in writing and give her a reasonable opportunity to return to work before denying her reinstatement.

 

It is not lawful for an employer to deny or interfere with an employee’s rights given under FMLA. This includes discharging or discriminating against an employee for taking FMLA leave. If an employee uses FMLA leave, it cannot be counted against them in future hiring and advancement decisions, disciplinary actions, or attendance records.

The Family Medical Leave Act is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor. If you believe your rights under FMLA have been violated by your employer, you can file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor’s Employment Standards Administration. Your complaint will be investigated, and the Department of Labor will work with you and your employer to reach a satisfactory resolution.

You are also entitled to sue your employer in civil court to remedy the violation. You do not need to file a complaint with the Department of Labor before filing a lawsuit.

Speak with a Texas employment attorney

If you believe your FMLA rights have been violated, or fear retribution for FMLA-related reasons, you should consult with an experienced employment law attorney right away. The attorneys at Lindquist Wood Edwards LLP help employers and employees reach a fair resolution. Contact our offices in Dallas and Frisco to schedule a consultation.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars(1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading...