Can My Employer Require Me to Use FMLA Leave?

The federal Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides important job-protection benefits for workers in Texas and across the U.S. who need time off to deal with serious medical issues. However, the law contains several provisions that limit the amount of leave time an employer must allow for its employees.

In general, FMLA-eligible employees can take up to 12-weeks of unpaid leave in any 12-month period if they cannot work because of a serious medical condition, need to care for a close relative with a serious medical condition, or for the birth or adoption of a child.  Those 12-weeks can be taken all at once, intermittently in blocks of time, or by means of a reduced daily or weekly work schedule as the condition or situation requires.

Employer FMLA Notification Requirement

But what if you’d rather take paid leave that you have earned and save those 12 FMLA weeks for later in the year? Can your employer start the clock on those 12 FMLA weeks during your paid leave?

The answer is yes, so long as your employer notifies you that they are doing so.

In other words, if you are taking paid vacation or sick time off for an FMLA-qualifying reason, then that time can count toward your 12-weeks of FMLA leave. Likewise, if you take time off to recover from a work-related illness or injury under a workers’ compensation program, that time could also count toward your 12 FMLA weeks.

However, your employer is required to tell you at the time you take paid or workers compensation leave that it is also considered FMLA leave. What if they don’t? Under FMLA regulations, an employer can try to retroactively designate that time as FMLA leave, but if you can somehow show you would be harmed by it, then they are barred from doing so.

Getting Help from an FMLA Lawyer

The FMLA does provide basic protections to employees dealing with family and medical issues. Depending on your employer’s policies and practices, however, it may very well not represent as much additional time off as you think it will. Know your rights, and if you think you’ve been treated unfairly, call us to review your case.

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