The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives eligible employees the right to take time off work to bond with a new child, care for a family member with a serious health condition, recover from their own serious health condition, handle matters relating to a family member's military service, or care for a military family member who suffered a serious illness or injury on active duty. (For more on employee rights under the FMLA, see FMLA Basics: Ten Things Employees Should Know.)
The FMLA imposes notice requirements on both employees and employers. Employees have to give notice of their need for leave. Employers must give a series of notices, intended to inform employees of their rights and obligations under the law.
The main employee notice requirement under the FMLA is that employees must inform employers of their need to take FMLA leave. The timing of this notice depends on the circumstances:
FMLA leave is unpaid. If an employee wants to use accrued paid leave (for example, sick time or vacation days) during FMLA leave, the employee must follow the employer's notice procedures for these types of leave. For example, if an employee wants to use vacation time while out with a new baby, the employee must give as much notice as the employer's rules require. If the employee is unable to follow the employer's policy, the employer does not have to allow the employee to use paid leave. However, the employee is still entitled to use unpaid FMLA leave.
Example: Joe's son is hit by a car on the way to school. Joe informs his employer immediately, and misses a week of work. This time counts as FMLA leave, because Joe gave as much notice as was practicable under the circumstances. However, if Joe's employer requires employees to give 30 days' notice before taking vacation time, Joe's employer can prohibit him from using his vacation time to get paid for this week.
There are four types of notice employers must provide under the FMLA:
The FMLA's notice requirements can get complicated. If you need help understanding the rules, check out the information available at the Department of Labor's FMLA page. you can also find detailed information on every aspect of the FMLA in Nolo's book, The Essential Guide to Family and Medical Leave.