Policy Bulletin No. 1994-01
Appendix I - FMLA - January 31, 1994 (Part 2; pages 10 through 18)
TABLE OF CONTENTS [of Part 2]
C . EHS Procedure
FMLA leave is unpaid except where employees exercise their option to substitute use of appropriate leave credits. The FMLA does not require an employer to authorize the use of paid sick leave in any circumstance when it would not otherwise authorize it. As a matter of State policy, when use of leave credits would be allowed under the Rules, employees may elect to use appropriate leave credits during a period of FMLA leave or may choose not to use credits at their option. The term "appropriate leave credits" means credits that are available for absences for that specific reason. For example, no more than 15 days of accrued sick leave may be used in any calendar year for illness in the family, although an employee may elect to use accrued vacation, personal leave and holiday leave to cover the remainder of his/her absence. It is expected that agencies will assist employees in determining the best use of their available accruals depending on their particular situation.
Note: For employees who first became covered by FMLA on August 5, 1993, no absences prior to August 5 counted against the 12-week FMLA entitlement for the period August 5, 1993--December 31, 1993, even if the absences were for the same reason that FMLA leave was requested during that period. Similarly for employees who first become covered by FMLA on February 5, 1994, no absences prior to February 5, 1994, count against the 12-week FMLA entitlement for the period February 5, 1994--December 31, 1994, even if the absences were for the same reason that FMLA leave is being requested during this period.
The FMLA entitles employees to up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period as defined by the employer. For employees covered by this memorandum, the calendar year has been designated as the 12-month period. This means that State employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks of leave for qualifying events under FMLA each calendar year.
Employees who first became covered under the FMLA on August 5, 1993, were eligible for up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave between August 5, 1993, and December 31, 1993, and are now eligible for 12 weeks of FMLA leave on a calendar year basis. Employees who first...
...become covered under the FMLA on February 5, 1994, will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave between February 5, 1994, and December 31, 1994. Thereafter, all eligible employees will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave in each calendar year.
An employee is entitled to a total of 12 weeks of leave in each calendar year for any qualifying circumstance or combination of circumstances. For example, an employee who has used eight weeks of FMLA leave in a calendar year to care for an ill parent has only four weeks of FMLA leave eligibility remaining in that calendar year should that employee require leave for other covered reasons. However, nothing in the FMLA diminishes an employee's eligibility for leave pursuant to the Attendance Rules although, in most cases, the employee will be using FMLA leave and leave pursuant to the Rules concurrently.
Under FMLA, a husband and wife who are employed by New York State are only entitled to take a combined total of 12 weeks for birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child. If each spouse took six weeks of leave following placement of a foster care child, for example, each could later use six weeks due to a personal illness or to care for a child or parent with a serious health condition.
The 12 weeks of FMLA leave may be taken on a continuous or on an intermittent basis, for both personal illness and illness of covered family members based on the medical necessity for the absence. However, leave in connection with child care following childbirth, adoption and foster placement is continuous, unless agency permission is granted to take such leave on an intermittent basis. Whenever leave is taken on an intermittent basis, it may be used in units as small as 1/4 hour. When counting leave taken on an intermittent basis, agencies need to count in hours and equate these to portions of a workweek.
The first 12 weeks of absence in a calendar year for FMLA-qualifying reasons normally will be deemed to be leave under FMLA by the appointing authority and the employee must be so notified. For example, an employee who has used ten days of family sick leave in the calendar year for the serious health condition of a child (as defined under FMLA) should have been notified that he/she has used two weeks of his/her 12-week FMLA entitlement in that calendar year, even if the family sick leave was not specifically requested as FMLA leave. (This notice must have been provided to the...
...employee prior to return to work from the designated FMLA absence. Once employees have returned to work, no retroactive designation can be made.) However, if the ten days of family sick leave used was for reasons which do not meet FMLA criteria (for example, routine medical appointments) that employee still has 12 weeks of FMLA eligibility remaining in that calendar year despite having used 10 days of family sick leave.
The amount of FMLA leave granted to part-time employees is based on their regularly scheduled workweek. For example, an employee who normally works 30 hours per week has used one week of entitlement after being absent for his/her entire week's schedule. This employee, when absent on an intermittent basis, has also used one week of entitlement when his/her intermittent absences total 30 hours.
Each time an employee requests leave the agency must determine the following:
FMLA requires that when the need for leave is foreseeable, for example in cases of birth, placement for foster care or adoption or planned medical treatment, the agency may require that the employee provide 30 calendar days' advance notice prior to the commencement of leave. Agencies should be aware, however, of State policy which may impact on this process. For example, New York State policy on leave for childbirth, child care and adoption makes the granting of leave mandatory for the eligible employee whether or not prior notice is given.
If the agency requires the 30-day advance notification allowed under the FMLA (for absences other than those for childbirth, child care or adoption) and the employee fails to meet this requirement, with no reasonable excuse, the FMLA permits leave to be delayed until 30 days after the employee makes the request.
When the need for FMLA leave is not foreseeable, for example in the case of medical emergencies or change in circumstances, the FMLA requires notification to the employer "as soon as practicable," which is defined as within one or two workdays of the employee's knowledge of the need for leave. However, nothing exempts the employee from following normal agency call-in procedures to report his/her absence, separate and apart from the time limits which apply to requesting FMLA leave.
Agencies cannot impose notification requirements which are more restrictive than those required under the FMLA. Agencies should discuss the circumstances of any FMLA leave request with the...
...Employee Relations Section before seeking to delay the start of a requested leave due to insufficient notification.
Agencies are required to provide notice that leave has been designated as FMLA leave prior to the employee's return to work. When chronic illness results in long-term intermittent absence, agencies should give advance notice to the employee that all absences for that qualifying event will be designated FMLA leave. Each time an employee is absent after receiving that initial notice, the agency should provide written notice advising the employee that the absence was counted against the employee's entitlement.
Employees have the option of requesting leave with pay charged to appropriate accruals or leave without pay and must indicate the chosen option at the time request for leave is made. An employee who elects not to use leave credits during a period of requested FMLA leave remains eligible to request use of leave credits under the Attendance Rules following exhaustion of his/her entitlement to leave under FMLA. For example, an employee who requests 12 weeks of unpaid leave under FMLA remains eligible, at the conclusion of the 12-week period, to request use of vacation, personal leave, holiday leave and available family sick leave, if appropriate, for absence beyond the 12-week period. See Use of Leave Credits above.
Pursuant to State policy, disability absences in connection with a job-related accident, which also meet the definition of a serious health condition under FMLA, should be designated as FMLA leave and employees should be so notified. Although the medial certification form used for other FMLA absences is still appropriate for agency use, the employee and his/her health care provider must continue to submit all required State Insurance Fund and Workers' Compensation Board forms pursuant to New York State Workers' Compensation Law.
Medical certification to support an FMLA leave request may be required if the employee is informed that such medical documentation is necessary. An updated sample medical certification form is attached (Attachment B) which agencies can have employees submit when requesting leave pursuant to the FMLA. Agencies also can continue to use any internal form(s) which...
...provide comparable information so long as such form does not require more information than that of the sample form attached.
The FMLA allows the employer to require medical recertification every 30 days. More frequent medical recertification can only be requested if:
The following are the health care providers currently listed in the FMLA regulations as acceptable for providing any required medical certifications: Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Osteopathy, Podiatrist, Dentist, Optometrist, Psychologist, Chiropractor, Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Midwife, Christian Science Practitioner. If the United States Department of Labor amends this list, we will advise you accordingly.
Any medical information submitted with an FMLA leave request must be treated in a confidential manner in accordance with regular agency procedures and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
In the majority of cases, the agency will be able to verify the need for FMLA leave based on the completed medical certification form provided by the employee at the time request for leave is made. In those exceptional cases where the agency has a valid reason to question whether an employee has a "serious health condition," the Employee Health Service of the New York State Department of Civil Service will assist the agency in obtaining a second opinion.
If an employee has filed a request for FMLA leave and the employer has questioned the medical certification submitted by the employee, the employer may have the request reviewed by the Employee Health Service (EHS). The employee's request must be transmitted to EHS along with a completed PS-707, Agency Request for Medical Examination. Upon receipt of this information, EHS will conduct an evaluation of the medical documentation supporting...
...the employee's request and render an opinion as to whether the individual meets the FMLA criteria.
If the basis of the request is a family member's medical condition, EHS will render an opinion following review of the medical documentation submitted. If the employee's FMLA request is based upon his or her own medical condition, EHS may schedule a medical examination. The medical examination may be conducted at the EHS medical examination center, or at an EHS consultant physician's office.
Based upon available medical documentation and/or examination results, the EHS physician will render an opinion as to whether the medical criteria for FMLA leave are met. EHS will notify the employing agency of this opinion. The employing agency can then make the administrative decision to approve or disapprove the employee's FMLA leave request.
Should the employee wish to appeal an FMLA disapproval decision, a third opinion may be obtained from a physician who is jointly chosen by the employer and the employee. The EHS maintains a list of physicians who can be contacted to perform this function. The decision of the third physician is binding on both parties. In both the second and third opinion reviews, the cost of the medical examination must be paid for by the agency.
Included as Attachment C is the procedure to be followed when requesting EHS assistance. This procedure will be incorporated in State Personnel Management Manual Section 2620.
Agencies will need to keep an ongoing record of all FMLA leave granted to an employee throughout each calendar year. Copies of the notifications to the employee that leave is deemed to be pursuant to FMLA should also be retained with leave accrual records. Agencies may choose to modify time records, for example, to add a space for "FMLA Leave Used" each calendar year or develop some other mechanism for accumulating leave use data. When an employee moves between agencies, FMLA leave information needs to be transferred along with accrual balances.
The FMLA also affects an employee's health insurance and other insurance benefits. The FMLA requires continuation of existing benefits during the period of FMLA leave for employees who are otherwise eligible for these benefits. This means that if an employee is enrolled for health, dental, vision or life insurance coverages, these benefits must continue during the FMLA leave period if the employee wishes to continue them and the employee is required to pay the same cost he/she would pay while in active work status. (If the employee pays no cost for a benefit in active status [e.g., dental coverage], the benefit must continue during the FMLA period at no cost.) Detailed information on benefit requirements and how you report benefit transactions for FMLA leaves without pay are explained in the memorandum of August 16, 1993, to State Agency Health Benefit Administrators from the Employee Benefits Division of this Department.
Employers are required to post notices in conspicuous places on their premises describing the provisions of the FMLA and providing information concerning the process for filing complaints of violations of the Act with the Wage and Hour Division. Failure to post may result in monetary fines. A sample posting notice is attached (Attachment D) and may be reproduced. As long as all of the same information is included, agencies may create their own posting notices.
Agency handbooks and other written information about leave rights must be updated to include information about the FMLA.
Whenever an employee requests FMLA leave or the agency designates a period of absence as FMLA leave, the agency is required to provide written notice to the employee describing all the employee's rights and obligations under the FMLA. The United States Department of Labor has prepared sample memoranda that we have revised and may be used for this purpose (see Attachment E). Agencies are free to use these memoranda or prepare their own as long as all of the required information is included. Additionally, agencies should continue to provide the routine information that accompanies an employee's request for or placement on leave without pay.
Employees returning to work from FMLA leave are entitled to be returned to the same or an equivalent position with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.
The only limitations on an employer's obligation to reinstate an employee are that the employee does not have greater rights than he/she would have had he/she been at work. It is our understanding, therefore, that placement on FMLA leave does not continue employment beyond the point it would otherwise have terminated by operation of law, rule or regulation. Examples include layoff, expiration of a temporary position, expiration of a season for seasonal employees, termination during probationary period, disciplinary termination or disability termination under Section 71 (for occupational injury) or Section 73 (for nonoccupational injury).
Employees who believe their rights under FMLA have been violated can file a complaint with the United States Department of Labor or file a private lawsuit. Complaints can be filed at any local office of the Wage and Hour Division, Employment Standards Administration, United States Department of Labor.
The FMLA regulations contain a section on protection of employee rights which states, in summary, that:
C . EHS Procedure