Moving leave law forward

South Carolina businesses aren’t required to offer paid sick leave. Many are, however, required to allow up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

At Burnette Shutt & McDaniel, our employment lawyers can help workers get the time they’re entitled to if they or a family member falls ill. We also can help companies come into compliance with this federal law.

Also known as FMLA, the law makes it clear that those who work for companies with more than 50 employers can take time off if they’re sick or if they need to care for a family member. FMLA also applies to all public employees as well as to private school employees.

The time off is available for:

  • Birth or adoption of a child
  • Recovering from a serious health condition or caring for a family member with a serious health condition
  • Handling situations related to a relative’s military service or caring for a family member injured in the military

What it doesn’t cover: short-term sicknesses such as the flu or the cold. Neither does FMLA consider domestic partners “family members,” though it does cover stepparents and stepchildren.

How the Family and Medical Leave Act works

Employees with accumulated sick or vacation time can use it for a FMLA leave. Employers must continue to pay the company’s portion of the group health insurance premium during the absence.

An employee doesn’t have to do anything other than tell the employer they plan to take medical leave. The employee doesn’t have to go into exhaustive detail about private information. All that’s required is enough information to prove the leave qualifies for FMLA.

It’s then up to the employer to notify the employee of eligibility as well as give written notice of rights and responsibilities. If the leave is because of the employee’s medical condition, many companies require a medical certificate to take the leave of a fitness for duty certificate upon return.

Where workers sometimes run into problems with FMLA is if an employer denies the leave. Sometimes employers will harasses the employee during the leave with excessive inquiries about date of return. Occasionally employees will find themselves moved to different jobs when they return to work. That’s fine if it’s a comparable position. Otherwise, it could be illegal.