When Are Employees Entitled to Intermittent FMLA Leave?

Feb 20, 2018
By Peter Friedmann

Employees who are eligible to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can take that time off intermittently when they need it to:

  • Deal with a serious medical condition they are experiencing,
  • Care for a family member who is experiencing a serious medical condition,
  • Take care of a newborn child, or
  • Welcome a newly adopted child or foster child.

An employee should work cooperatively with his or her employer to schedule intermittent FMLA leave in advance and an employer must have legally defensible reasons to deny such requests. When a company or agency denies intermittent FMLA leave to a person who meets the eligibility criteria and can show a need for time off to attend to their personal health or to serve as a family caregiver, a Columbus, Ohio, equal compensation lawyer may be able to fight for the employee’s rights. continuous leave vs intermittent leave

Who Qualifies for Intermittent FMLA Leave?

Any person who has worked full-time for at least a year at a government agency or a private company with more than 50 full-time employees within a 75-mile radius qualifies for FMLA leave. Federal regulations define a year of full-time employment as working at least 1,250 hours during a 12-month period.

How Much Intermittent FMLA Leave Can an Employee Take?

The Family and Medical Leave Act allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks off without pay.  Some employers choose to pay employees while they are on FMLA leave, but employees are not entitled to be paid while on FMLA.  When an employer receives proper notification from the employee, FMLA leave can be taken all at once, in increments of days or weeks, or on a schedule.

What Counts as Intermittent FMLA Leave?

Intermittent FMLA leave can best be thought of as a scheduled or unscheduled time off. Employees can request it by the day, the hour, or even parts of an hour when the employer records work time in 15- or 30-minute blocks.  If a serious medical condition causes an employee to have unpredictable “flare-ups,” intermittent FMLA leave is a great option.  Alternatively, intermittent FMLA leave can be used to doctor’s appointments or to attend treatment.

Employees do not need to use all 12 weeks of FMLA leave available to them. Also, it is illegal for an employer to force an employee to take more time off than the person requests.

When Can an Employer Deny Intermittent FMLA Leave?

A company or agency usually has to grant requests for extended or intermittent FMLA leave. The few times an employer can prevent a worker from taking unpaid leave are when:

  • The employee has used all of his or her available FMLA hours,
  • The employee has not qualified by working 1,250 hours in the preceding 12 months,
  • The employee asked for FMLA leave for a reason other than a personal medical condition or family caregiving, or
  • The employer does not have 50 full-time employees.

A company or agency can request documentation such as notes from doctors and adoption certificates, but declining a FMLA leave request for a legitimate purpose is not legal.

Can an Employer Temporarily Reassign an Employee Who Takes Intermittent FMLA Leave?

Yes, but only under strict conditions. An employer can reduce a worker’s hours and responsibilities, but it cannot lower the person’s pay when doing so. Nor can the company or agency strip away benefits or decrease the temporarily reassigned employee’s seniority and eligibility for new assignments or promotions when the person returns from FMLA status.

What Legal Options Does an Employee Have When Intermittent FMLA Is Denied?

Anyone denied FMLA leave should consult with a Columbus equal compensation attorney who has experience handling such cases. Disputes over FMLA often end up in court over complicated questions regarding when leave started, when the employee returned from leave, and whether a legitimate need for unpaid time off existed.

An employee who succeeds with a complaint about an illegal denial of FMLA leave can receive back pay, monetary damages, and, sometimes, reinstatement if the employer terminated the person for allegedly misusing time off or using FMLA leave generally.

To request a free, confidential appointment with an equal compensation lawyer in the Columbus, OH, offices of The Friedmann Firm, call 614.610.9755. Consultations can also be scheduled online by completing this contact form.