A new child’s arrival in a family can be a truly overwhelming time– especially considering the complicated family leave laws that exist across most of the United States. In fact, the United States is the only OECD country that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave.

In 2017, the Family and Medical Leave Act was implemented in Arkansas, creating a clearly-defined framework for new parents and people experiencing medical issues to utilize.

What exactly is the Family and Medical Leave Act?

In the simplest terms, the FMLA allows certain qualifying employees to take 12 weeks off per calendar year without losing their jobs. 

Although this period of leave is unpaid, employees retain their health benefits during this time.

Who qualifies for the Family and Medical Leave Act?

The FMLA sounds great in theory, but not all workers in Arkansas are able to take advantage of it– only certain employees qualify.

Employees who qualify for FMLA leave include state, local, and federal employees, plus employees who work at schools. Some private sector employees also qualify, although their employer must have more than 50 employees for at least 20 weeks per year. 

In addition to those restrictions, employees must have worked with their employer for at least 12 months prior to taking their FMLA leave. During those 12 months, they must have worked at least 1,250 hours– at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.

What kind of leave is covered by the FMLA?

The FMLA has some fairly strict guidelines for what employees can be doing during their leave.

Leave is intended to allow families to take time to bond with a new child– born, adopted, or fostered into the family. 

Employees can also utilize FMLA leave in order to recuperate from a serious medical condition, or to help a family member with recuperation from a serious medical condition. 

Family members included in the permitted reasons for taking leave include spouses, children, and parents, but the FMLA specifies that “in-laws” are not included within this group.

Service members are also included in the FMLA– employees are permitted to take leave in the event of any “qualifying exigency” as a result of a spouse, child or parent’s status as an active military member. Employees are permitted to take up to 26 work weeks during a calendar year to care for a service member who has been seriously injured or is dealing with a serious medical condition. 

What qualifies as a serious health condition?

There are also specific guidelines about which illnesses and medical conditions qualify for FMLA leave.

In order to qualify for leave, your medical condition should involve the following:

– inpatient care in a hospital or other residential medical facility

– any medical incapacity that requires you to miss more than three calendar days from work, and requires ongoing care from a health care provider.

– a period of incapacity as a result of a serious chronic health condition (for example, diabetes or epilepsy)

– a period of incapacity as a result of a long-term condition like Alzheimer’s or stroke

– treatment that would require absences from work, like chemotherapy or dialysis.

What if my employer disciplines me for taking FMLA leave?

It is a condition of the FMLA that employers cannot discipline or terminate employees who take FMLA leave– job protection is one of the main tenets of the Act!

If your employer is giving you a hard time for utilizing your FMLA leave, or threatening to terminate you, it’s time to seek out legal counsel. A qualified lawyer will help you protect your rights and take advantage of the leave you need during an already overwhelming and stressful time in your life.

 To get started, give us a call today at 501-620-4242, or fill out as many details as you can through our contact form. We look forward to working with you.