Posted on behalf of Sheryl Gordon
UNRAVELING SOME COMMON MYTHS & MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT FMLA AT GREEN RIVER COLLEGE
Myth #1 – FMLA (Family & Medical Leave) is a separate “paid” leave.
- No, FMLA is unpaid leave; FMLA is a “designation” not a leave type. When approved, FMLA provides up to 480 hours or about three (3) months of job-protected (unpaid) leave, but employees must use their own appropriate leave type in order to continue being paid while out on FMLA. Shared leave may also be an option.
Myth #2 – The employer can’t ask for any medical information.
- Wrong – FMLA regulations allow employers to get sufficient proof of the medical need in order to be able to make an FMLA determination.
Myth #3 – It’s okay for me to talk about my coworker’s FMLA or email details about the medical condition to my fellow employees.
- So wrong – Employees who go on medical leave are protected by confidentiality laws to prevent the nature of their or their families’ medical condition from being disclosed. You should not convey specifics of other employees’ (or their families’) medical conditions to others at work, even if the affected employee is disclosing the information to others at work. It is not okay to use Green River College email or any other college resources to pass along confidential medical information.
Myth #4 – My coworker shared with me that she is on approved FMLA leave for a serious medical condition, but I saw her shopping at Costco yesterday. Isn’t that a violation or abuse of FMLA?
- There is no “stay-at-home” policy associated with the receipt of leave benefits at Green River. The answer to this question is going to depend on whether the employee is unable to do her job, but capable of stopping at a store and running an errand. In other words are her actions inconsistent with the medical reason she took FMLA, and only the employee’s doctor can determine what her limitations or restrictions are.
Myth #5 – My supervisor can decide that it’s too much of a hardship on our department for me to be gone, and the college can deny my FMLA request for leave.
- Wrong – Under the FMLA you cannot be denied FMLA leave if
- (1) you are an eligible employee
- (2) of a covered employer
- (3) requesting leave for a reason covered by FMLA
- (4) you have provided sufficient information for your employer to determine that you have made a request for medical leave that is covered by FMLA
- (5) the request has been made thirty days prior to the required leave (or as soon as reasonably possible if thirty days’ notice cannot be provided) and
- (6) you have not already exhausted your protected leave for the current FMLA period.
Myth #6 – Holidays don’t count towards my FMLA (480-hour) entitlement while I’m gone on approved leave.
- Wrong –if you’re gone an entire week during which a holiday falls, the holiday counts as part of your FMLA 480-hour designation. If you worked part of that week, the holiday will not count towards your 480-hour FMLA entitlement.
Myth #7 – I can use FMLA just to spend time with my eligible family member when she/he is sick:
- Wrong – FMLA to care for a family member means that your presence is required to care for your family member. In the medical certification, your doctor must specify what care you are providing to your family member and why your absence to perform that care is necessary during your working hours.
Myth #8 – I can take FMLA to care for my elderly grandparents.
- In most cases, no. The FMLA does not recognize grandparents as immediate family members for FMLA purposes and Green River’s FMLA policy does not include them either. Unless your grandparent acted in loco parentis (had legal responsibility to take on some of the functions of a parent), they will not be considered a family member for FMLA purposes.
Myth #9 – I just use my FMLA “intermittently” and so I don’t need to let my supervisor know when I’m going to be gone.
- Wrong – Unless your supervisor has agreed otherwise, you must follow the appropriate sick leave notification process each day during “intermittent” FMLA use and report your absence to your supervisor. You should never include any medical facts or describe physical events; just specify you will be out for FMLA approved reasons.
Myth #10 – I was approved for FMLA to care for my seriously ill family member who passed away. My FMLA will continue throughout my “grieving” period.
- No, even though the employee will experience a period of grieving unless there is a qualifying event that makes the employee eligible for FMLA, the “Care for a Family Member” FMLA ends with the passing of the relative. The employee may be eligible for several days of paid bereavement leave however.