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How Does the FMLA Protect My Job in Iowa?

Posted By Laura Schultes - 03.18.21

If you or a family member have a serious health condition, you may be facing the need to take some time away from work to care for yourself or another person. If so, the Family and Medical Leave Act – or the FMLA – may provide you with some legal protections and options.

Generally speaking, the FMLA allows certain employees to take time away from work for health reasons and have the right to return to their job at the end of their leave.  It is different and provides much more protection than the “sick leave” or “medical leave” that your employer might give you on an annual basis. But there are some important facts you need to know about the FMLA and how it affects you. 

Rules of FMLA for Iowa Employers – and What it Means For You

Not every employer has to follow the FMLA. If you work for a private employer, then your employer is only required to follow the FMLA if it employs 50 or more people.

In addition to these private employers, the FMLA also covers public agencies, including schools, no matter how many employees there are. If you work for a small business, the FMLA may not apply to your employer and you, as an employee, may not have FMLA rights.

Not Every Iowa Employee has FMLA Rights

Even if your employer is big enough, not every employee has FMLA rights. To be eligible for FMLA, you, as the employee, have to meet three requirements: 

  1. You must have worked for your employer for the previous 12 months prior to the day your leave starts. This means if you just started your job, you won’t be eligible for FMLA. 
  2. You must also have worked at least 1,250 hours during that 12 month period. On average, that means you must have worked about 24 hours per week for 12 months. If you are working on a limited, part-time basis, you may not be eligible for FMLA even if other employees at your workplace are eligible.
  3. You must work at a location where the employer has at least fifty employees within a seventy-five-mile radius.

What is FMLA Leave Used For?

Assuming both you and your employer are covered by the FMLA, you can only use FMLA leave for specific reasons. 

  • The birth, adoption, or foster placement of a son or daughter;
  • To care for a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
  • Your own serious health condition; or
  • Certain events related to the military service of a spouse, child, or parent.

Assuming all other eligibility requirements are met, the FMLA allows an employee to be absent from work for up to 12 work weeks during a 12-month period. The twelve weeks of leave can be taken in a single block, which is common when recovering from an injury or illness. It can also be taken in short increments, such as a day or a few hours at a time. This is called intermittent leave and allows employees to take time off for things such as doctor appointments or symptoms that occur periodically such as migraine headaches.

FMLA leave might also take the form of having a reduced work schedule on a temporary basis. After a total of twelve weeks are used, then your employer is obligated to restore you to the job you had when you left. 

How to Inform Your Employer You Need to Take FMLA Leave

Keep in mind there are some paperwork and information gathering requirements that your employer can enforce.  Employees have an obligation to provide notice to their employer about their intent to take FMLA. In other words, you can’t leave your employer guessing about why you need time off.

If you anticipate needing to be off work for medical reasons, or for a family member’s medical needs, you need to tell your employer as soon as you can that you need to take time off work and the reason why.

Once you tell your employer that you intend to take FMLA leave, your employer can require you to complete paperwork to formally request leave and may require a doctor or healthcare provider to fill out some forms. 

If you believe you have been wrongfully denied FMLA or retaliated against because you’ve taken FMLA leave, RSH Legal offers a free, no-obligation case evaluation. Get yours today by calling 1-800-433-0283.

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