School districts, similar to any other employer, often struggle with properly implementing employee leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA provides that employees are entitled to up to twelve weeks of leave for their own serious health condition or to provide care for a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition. In order to qualify for FMLA leave, the employee has to be a covered employee who worked 1250 hours in the twelve months immediately prior to the requested leave and worked at least twelve months for the employer, although these months do not have to be consecutive.
Once an employee qualifies for FMLA leave, school districts need to be aware of specific rules that come into play when calculating an employee’s FMLA leave duration. Employees are entitled to twelve total weeks of FMLA leave in a twelve month period. An employee’s FMLA leave can be on an intermittent or continuous basis or can consist of a reduced work schedule.
When calculating continuous FMLA leave for school district employees, school breaks that are less than one week (i.e., spring break), are included in the FMLA calculation. School breaks that are greater than one week (i.e., winter break and summer) are not included in the FMLA calculation for employees who would not be required to report to work on these days. In other words, the FMLA calculation for an instructional employee would be suspended during summer and would resume when the instructional employees report back to work.
Another rule specific to school districts involves modifying the employee’s FMLA leave to fit the needs of the school district. If an instructional employee of a school district requests leave that is foreseeable and on an intermittent basis or pursuant to a reduced work schedule leave and the leave is greater than 20% of the work days in the work period, the school district can require the employee to take leave for the entire period of the planned medical treatment or can move the employee to an available alternative position (with equivalent pay and benefits) for which the employee is qualified. Additionally, if an instructional employee begins FMLA leave more than five weeks before the end of the semester, the school district can require the employee to take leave until the end of the semester, provided the leave will last at least three weeks and the employee would return to work during the last three weeks of the semester.
If you have questions regarding implementing FMLA leave, please contact Emily K. Ellingson at Lynch Dallas, P.C. at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-365-9101.