When you're dealing with a major medical problem, either yours or a loved one's, the last thing you want to worry about is work. Requesting FMLA leave can ensure that you're given unpaid time off and that your job is still waiting for you when you return, but you need to give proper notice.
So what do you need to do? Here's a quick legal overview of how to request FMLA leave from your employer:
1. Figure Out Whether You're Even Eligible.
Not every employee is eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), so requesting FMLA leave if you're not eligible may be a pointless exercise. Check out the requirements for FMLA leave, make sure they apply to you, and then move on to the next step.
2. Give Proper Notice.
In order for your employers to hold up their legal obligations to you for FMLA leave, you need to give your company proper notice. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, you typically need to give 30 days advance notice of the proposed start of your FMLA leave; however, if you've found out that you need to take leave with less than 30 days to notify your employer (e.g., you've just learned you'll need surgery within a week), you should let your employer know as soon as possible.
3. What Information to Include?
Your employer is somewhat limited in what it can request from you in terms of medical information, so you'll need to give enough information for your employer to know that the situation is eligible for FMLA leave. This doesn't mean that you have to disclose a doctor's diagnosis for you or your loved one, but you do need to cue your employer into the request being for FMLA reasons.
For example, you may not need to discuss the details of a surgery or underlying condition, but telling your employer that you need leave to attend physical therapy or to get prescribed bed rest should be sufficient.
4. Communication and Certification.
After you've made your FMLA request, your employer is required to get back to you within five days. Some employers may allow you to have paid time off during your FMLA leave, and all of them must provide you with a statement of your rights and responsibilities under the federal law. If an employer requests certification from a medical provider to permit FMLA leave, you must provide that information within 15 days.
Need More Help?
The process for requesting FMLA leave is meant to be simple, but of course, complication can and do arise. If you feel bullied or are unsure of what to do next during the FMLA process, an experienced employment attorney can help to answer your questions and guide you in the right direction.