Family and Medical Leave (FMLA)

What is FMLA Leave?
Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that provides up to 12 work weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a year time-frame for qualified employees.  It requires that group health benefits be maintained during the Leave, this is at the Beaufort County School District employee’s expense.

This law covers only certain employers; affects only those employees eligible for the protections of the law; involves entitlement to leave, maintenance of health benefits during leave, and job restoration after leave; sets requirements for notice and certification of the need for FMLA leave; and protects employees who request or take FMLA leave.

The purpose for FMLA leave is to allow employees to balance their work and family life by taking reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons.


Who is eligible to apply for FMLA?

An employee who has worked for the Beaufort County School District for at least 12 continuous months; and has worked at least 1250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of the FMLA leave.


When should an employee apply for FMLA?

A minimum of a 30-day advance notice should be provided to Human Resources, Benefits Department Representative and the employee’s supervisor of the need to take FMLA leave when the leave is foreseeable. Notice "as soon as practicable" when the need to take FMLA leave is not foreseeable ("as soon as practicable" means notice to the employer within one or two business days of learning of the need to take FMLA leave).

The employee must complete the Beaufort County School District Family Medical Leave Act application and medical certification to be approved for FMLA leave.


What is the employee required to do upon completion of FMLA?

It is imperative that the employee notifies both the school Principal and the Human Resources Benefits Department of his/her return to work status.  If the employee was out due to childbirth, or a serious health condition, a Return to Work Order (RTO) from the employee's doctor is required before the employee is able to return to work.

If employee was on Leave in care of an immediate family member or to care for a newly placed child (adopted or foster), they need to notify both the Principal and designee at the employee’s work location immediately upon determining a return-to-work date.


What is the employee required to do while out on FMLA leave?
The employee is required to keep the District informed of medical status and intent.

If an extension of FMLA leave is needed, the employee must request in writing to extend their FMLA leave beyond the original date requested.


What is the school’s responsibility when an employee is on FMLA leave?

If an employee informs District personnel that they will be absent for 5 workdays or longer due to medical reasons, (i.e. childbirth, operation, to care for a seriously ill immediate family member, etc.), the District personnel needs to request that the employee contact Rosella Robinson, Beaufort County School District Human Resources Benefits Department by telephone (843) 322-2300.

Please note that the school is responsible for reporting/submitting the Absent Employee/Substitute Report for an employee and provide the District with any paperwork/information concerning the employee medical status or intent.

How is the 12-month period calculated under FMLA?
It is based on a "rolling" 12-month period measured backward from the date an employee uses FMLA leave.

Does FMLA guarantee paid time off?
No. The FMLA only requires unpaid leave.  However, the law permits an employee to elect, or the employer to require the employee, to use accrued paid leave, such as vacation or sick leave, for some or all of the FMLA leave period. When paid leave is substituted for unpaid FMLA leave, it may be counted against the 12-week FMLA leave entitlement if the employee is properly notified of the designation when the leave begins.

Beaufort County School District uses all accrued leave during the FMLA Leave time

Does workers' compensation leave count against an employee's FMLA leave entitlement?
It can. FMLA leave and workers' compensation leave can run together, provided the reason for the absence is due to a qualifying serious illness or injury and the employer properly notifies the employee in writing that the leave will be counted as FMLA leave.

Can the employer count leave taken due to pregnancy complications against the 12 weeks of FMLA leave for the birth and care of my child?
Yes. An eligible employee is entitled to a total of 12 weeks of FMLA leave in a 12-month period. If the employee has to use some of that leave for another reason, including a difficult pregnancy, it will be counted as part of the 12-week FMLA leave entitlement.

Can the employer count time on maternity leave or pregnancy disability leave as FMLA leave?
Yes. Pregnancy disability leave or maternity leave for the birth of a child is considered qualifying FMLA Leave for a serious health condition and is counted in the 12 weeks of leave.  The employee will be notified as such in writing of the designation.

Who is considered an immediate "family member" for purposes of taking FMLA leave?
An employee's spouse, children (son or daughter), and parents are immediate family members for purposes of FMLA. The term "parent" does not include a parent "in-law." The terms son or daughter do not include individuals age 18 or over unless they are "incapable of self-care" because of a mental or physical disability that limits one or more of the "major life activities" as those terms are defined in regulations issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

As a Beaufort County School District employee, may I take FMLA leave for visits to a therapist, if my doctor prescribes the therapy?
Yes. FMLA permits you to take leave to receive "continuing treatment by a health care provider," which can include recurring absences for therapy treatments such as those ordered by a doctor for physical therapy after a hospital stay, or for treatment of severe arthritis.

Do the 12 months of service with the employer have to be continuous or consecutive?
The 12 months do not have to be continuous or consecutive; all time worked for the employer is counted.

Do the 1,250 hours include paid leave time or other absences from work?
The eligible 1,250 hours include only those hours actually worked for the employer. Paid leave and unpaid leave, including FMLA leave, are not included.

Do I have to give my employer my medical records for leave due to a serious health condition?
Beaufort County School District requires a medical certification with the initial FMLA application as well as a medical return to work certification.

Can my employer require me to return to work before I exhaust my leave?
Subject to certain limitations, you may be denied the continuation of FMLA leave due to a serious health condition if you fail to fulfill the policy obligations.

Can I be denied FMLA leave?
There are certain circumstances in which an individual may be denied FMLA.

Can Beaufort County School District make inquiries about my leave during my absence?
Yes, Beaufort County School District may ask the employee questions to confirm whether the leave needed or being taken qualifies for FMLA purposes, and will require periodic reports on medical status and intent to return to work.    Beaufort County School District may also request another medical opinion, requiring you to obtain additional medical certification at the employer's expense, or recertification during a period of FMLA leave. The employer may have a health care provider representing the employer contact your health care provider, with your permission, to clarify information in the medical certification or to confirm that it was provided by the health care provider. The inquiry may not seek additional information regarding your health condition or that of a family member.

Will I lose my job if I take FMLA leave?
Generally, no. It is unlawful for any employer to interfere with or restrain or deny the exercise of any right provided under this law. Employers cannot use the taking of FMLA leave as a negative factor in employment actions, such as hiring, promotions or disciplinary actions; nor can FMLA leave be counted under "no fault" attendance policies. Under limited circumstances, an employer may deny reinstatement to work – but not the use of FMLA leave – to certain highly-paid, salaried ("key") employees.

Are there other circumstances in which I can be denied FMLA Leave or reinstatement to my job?
In addition to denying reinstatement in certain circumstances to "key" employees, employers are not required to continue FMLA benefits or reinstate employees who would have been laid off or otherwise had their employment terminated had they continued to work during the FMLA leave period as, for example, due to a general layoff.

Employees who give unequivocal notice that they do not intend to return to work lose their entitlement to FMLA leave.

Employees who are unable to return to work and have exhausted the 12 weeks of FMLA leave in the designated "12 month period" no longer have FMLA protections of leave or job restoration.

FMLA Administration:

Rosella Robinson, Benefits Specialist. Call (843) 322-2300 or e-mail rosella.robinson@beaufort.k12.sc.us