How to Take Maternity Leave in Florida

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Orlando Employment Law

As we recently discussed in our Orlando employment law blog “Maternity Leave Is Your Right; What expectant Mothers should know about the Family Medical Leave Act” the medically eligible events protected by FMLA include, the birth of a child, the adoption or foster care of a child, care for one’s spouse experiencing a serious health condition, a serious health condition affecting the employee, or an exigency arising out of a family members active military duty. (http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/#.UNIS_rbPeRk).

In addition to that brief description of the FMLA, it should be noted that the law was further expanded by the National Defense Authorization Act permitting a family member to take up to 26 weeks of protected family medical leave for the care, recuperation, therapy or disability of an active service member (including the Armed Forces, National Guard or Reserves).

Florida Teachers Take Note

Additional caveats to the law are the special rules applying to employees of local education agencies. The Department of Labor administers FMLA; however, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) administers FMLA for most federal employees.

Also Covering Domestic Violence

In Florida, the legislature has expanded FMLA protection to victims of domestic violence. As part of the Florida Domestic Violence Leave statute, companies with at least 50 employees in a 75 mile radius must allow eligible employees who are victims of domestic or sexual violence, or who have a family or household member who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence, to take up to three days off in a 12-month period to:

• seek an injunction
• get medical care or counseling
• get services from a victims’ rights group, shelter, or rape crisis center
• relocate or make the home more secure, or
• seek legal assistance.

Notification

The first step in taking planned maternity leave or for the medical care of dependents is to provide advance notice. According to the law, employees planning to take eligible leave under the FMLA MUST notify their employer at least 30 days prior the requested leave is scheduled to start.

In the case of a medical emergency where leave is suddenly necessary without advance notice, employees are required to notify their employer as soon as possible. It is generally considered reasonable and consistent with the law if you notify the company within two business days of taking emergency medical leave. Note that your company does have the right to request medical documentation or written physician explanation supporting your request for medical leave. In rare instances companies have been known to and are entitled to request second medical opinions or periodic reevaluation.

Am I Covered by the FMLA in Florida?

In the State of Florida workers can take medical leave if:
• they have worked for the company for at least a year
• they worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous year, and
• they work at a location with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.

How Much Time Off Do I Get?

Remember that maternity and medical leave is quite often unpaid leave. This means you may be going without a paycheck for a while. It is important to thoroughly review insurance and company policy before taking a planned medical leave. Here in Florida workers may take up to twelve weeks off in a 1-year period. Use of medical leave is available every 12 months, as long as the employee continues to meet the eligibility requirements.

As we discussed above, employees who need extended leave as a result of a military related incident can take up to 26 weeks off in a single 12-month period. However, it is important to remember that this unpaid time off is on a per-injury, per-service member basis. So, you may be eligible for additional military medical leave if the same family member is injured again, or another family member suffers an injury while on active duty.

Going Back To Work

As you are nearing the end of your medical leave, it is recommended that you notify your employer of your intention to return to work. Your employer is required to return you to your former position. However, your company can also place you in an equivalent position elsewhere in the company. In either case, you must receive the equivalent terms, pay, and benefits you were receiving prior to taking leave.

If you believe a full restoration of your job has not taken place, you can contact an employment attorney for a case review by a plaintiff-side lawyer. For additional guidance about the Family Medical Leave Act in Florida you may contact Wilson McCoy, P.A. for employment, labor and workplace discrimination issues.

By Nathan McCoy