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What should I know about the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
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Family Medical Leave Act in Georgia

What should I know? +

Contents


What is the Family Medical Leave Act?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives some employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for certain family and medical reasons. Employers must keep an employee’s group health benefits during the leave. FMLA is designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities. Leave may be taken all at once or as the medical condition requires.

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Who is eligible for FMLA leave in Georgia?

To be entitled to take FMLA leave, you must meet certain eligibility requirements. 

 

To be eligible, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Covered employer requirement. You must work for a covered employer. Covered employees include:

    • public agencies (including local, State, and Federal employers) and local education agencies (schools); and

    • private employers with at least 50 employees. Private employers with less than 50 employees are not covered by the FMLA.

  • Length of employment requirement. You must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months. It does not have to be 12 months in a row. The break in employment cannot be more than seven years. 

  • Hours requirement. You must have worked for the employer for at least 1250 hours in the 12 months before you take leave. 

  • Location of workplace requirement. You must work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your worksite. 

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What are my rights with FMLA leave in Georgia?

If you are eligible for FMLA, you are entitled to:

  • Twelve (12) workweeks of leave in a 12-month period. You can take leave for:

    • the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child. You can take this leave within one year of the child’s birth;

    • if you adopt or foster a child, you can take leave within one year of placement;

    • to care for your spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;

    • a serious health condition that makes you unable to perform the essential functions of your job;

    • any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that your spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty;” or

  • Twenty-six (26) workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness if you are the servicemember’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin. This is called military caregiver leave.

 

You can take FMLA leave as either: 

  • a single block of time (for example, three weeks of leave for surgery and recovery) or 

  • in multiple, smaller blocks of time if medically necessary (for example, occasional absences due to health conditions). 

 

You can also take leave on a part-time basis if medically necessary (for example, if after surgery you are able to return to work only four hours a day or three days a week for a period of time). 

 

You also have the right to:

  • Continue to get group health insurance as if you were not on leave. You may be required to continue to make any normal employee contributions.

  • Return to the same job (or one nearly identical) as long as you are able to return to work before your FMLA leave finishes.

  • Not be discriminated against for taking time off. An employer cannot take a negative actions against you in:

    • hiring, 

    • promotions, or 

    • discipline.

  • Not be retaliated against for filing a complaint and cooperating with the Wage and Hour Division or bringing a private action to court.

  • If you have sick time, vacation time, personal time, etc., saved up with your employer, you may use that leave time along with your FMLA leave so that you can continue to get paid. In order to receive this benefit, you must follow your employer’s normal leave rules (for example, submitting a leave form or providing advance notice). 

    • Even if you don’t want to use your paid leave, your employer can require you to use it during your FMLA leave. When you use paid leave for an FMLA-covered reason (whether at your request or your employer’s), your leave time is still protected by the FMLA.

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What are my responsibilities with FMLA leave in Georgia?

Your responsibilities include:

  • Providing your employer with appropriate notice to take FMLA leave. You do not have to tell your employer your diagnosis, but you do have to give information saying that your leave is due to an FMLA-protected condition.

    • If you know in advance that you will need FMLA leave (for example, surgery or pregnancy), you must give your employer at least 30 days advance notice.

    • If you find out you need leave less than 30 days in advance, you must give your employer notice as soon as you can (the day you find out or the next work day).

    • If you need FMLA leave unexpectedly (for example, family member in an accident), you must notify your employer as soon as you can. 

      • You must follow your employer’s usual notice or call-in procedures unless you are unable to do so. For example, if you are involved in a serious accident you might not be able to call. 

  • If your employer requests a certification, you must provide a completed certification to your employer within 15 calendar days. You may be required to:

    • Correct any issues in your certification identified by your employer. You must do this within 7 calendar days.

    • Get a 2nd medical opinion.

    • Get a 3rd medical opinion if the 1st and 2nd opinions differ.

  • If you need multiple periods of leave for planned medical treatment such as physical therapy appointments, you must try to schedule the treatment at a time that minimizes the disruption to your employer.

  • Let your employer know if your need for FMLA leave changes while you are out. 

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What are an employer’s rights and responsibilities under the FMLA?

The employer’s rights include:

  • Requiring medical certification from a health care provider before allowing FMLA leave. Additionally, the employer may require you to:

    • give updates on your status and intent to return to work.

    • use paid leave time saved up along with FMLA leave.

    • continue paying health insurance premiums during your leave.

 

The employer’s responsibilities include: 

  • Posting notice explaining rights and responsibilities under the FMLA. The employer may be subject to a civil money penalty of up to $110 for willful failure to post;

  • Including information about the FMLA in their employee handbooks or provide information to new employees when hired;

  • When you request FMLA leave or the employer knows that your leave may be for a FMLA-qualifying reason, they must provide notice within five business days:

    • that you may be eligible for FMLA leave and 

    • what your rights and responsibilities are under the FMLA.

  • The notice must include all of the following:

    • A definition of the 12-month period the employer uses to keep track of FMLA usage. This allows for the employee to know how much FMLA leave is available. 

    • Whether a medical certification is required from a health care provider

    • Your right to use paid leave or whether it will be required to use paid leave

    • Your right to maintain health benefits and whether premium payments are required

    • Your right to return to job at the end of the FMLA leave

  • Your employer must also notify you within five business days: 

    • whether leave is designated as FMLA leave and 

    • the amount of leave that will be deducted from the employee’s FMLA leave.

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What can I do? +

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How do I apply for FMLA leave?

You apply for FMLA leave with your employer. It is important for you to know your employer’s leave policy. You may need to follow both the FMLA requirements and your employer’s leave policy. To apply:

  • Notify your employer when you need leave.

    • If you know in advance that you will need FMLA leave (for example, surgery or pregnancy), you must give your employer at least 30 days advance notice.

    • If you find out you need leave less than 30 days in advance, you must give your employer notice as soon as you can (the day you find out or the next work day).

    • If you need FMLA leave unexpectedly (for example, family member in an accident), you must notify your employer as soon as you can. 

      • You must follow your employer’s usual notice or call-in procedures unless you are unable to do so. 

  • Your employer will let you know whether you are eligible for FMLA leave within five (5) business days of your notice.

  • If you are eligible, your employer will provide you with your FMLA rights and responsibilities and any request for medical certification.

    • If a medical certification is requested, you must provide it within 15 calendar days.

  • Your employer must let you know whether your leave has been designated as FMLA within five (5) business days. 

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Can I appeal a denial of FMLA leave?

Yes. If your employer allows appeals, you must first follow your employer’s appeal process.

 

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) administers and enforces the Family and Medical Leave Act for most employees. 

 

If you believe your request was unfairly denied, you can file a complaint with the WHD. File a complaint: 

  • 1-866-487-9243 (available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.). 

  • Your nearest WHD office.

 

The complaint should be filed within a reasonable time of when your employer violated your FMLA rights.

 

You may need the following information when filing a complaint with WHD:

  • your name

  • your address and phone number

  • the name of the company where you work or worked

  • location of the company (this may be different than the actual job site where you worked)

  • phone number of the company

  • manager or owner’s name

  • the circumstances of your FMLA request and your employer’s response

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What can I do if I am fired or punished because I took FMLA leave?

You can file a complaint with the WHD if you have been retaliated against: 

  • for taking FMLA leave, 

  • for filing a complaint with the WHD, or 

  • participating in a WHD complaint. 

 

You also have the option of filing a private lawsuit against your employer in state or federal court. In general, you file a lawsuit within two years of the FMLA violation. You may have up to three years if the violation was willful. If you wish to file a lawsuit, contact an attorney to discuss your rights.

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Resources

 

  • Learn more with fact sheets on the FMLA from the Department of Labor.
  • Learn more about the FMLA on the DOL website.
Last Review and Update: Jul 20, 2020