As in every other state, Florida employees are protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This federal law entitles employees who work for covered employers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain qualifying reasons, such as the birth or adoption of a child or the illness of a family member.
Some states provide additional benefits such as paid family leave, but Florida doesn’t have any paid leave regulations. The most important distinction about family and medical leave in Florida is that state employees can take a longer leave period than private-sector employees.
Here’s what you need to know about FMLA Florida leave, and in particular, how to know which employees are eligible for leave under state and federal employment law.
Who Is Eligible for FMLA Florida Leave?
Eligible employees in all 50 states can take a leave of absence under the FMLA, and Florida is no exception. But who counts as an eligible employee, and what are these employees entitled to?
First, an employee must have worked for the same employer for at least a full year – although it doesn’t have to be over a continuous period. This means seasonal employees could be eligible for FMLA Florida leave if they’ve accumulated enough hours over multiple years of work.
Next, the employee has to have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year immediately before taking leave. Since this works out to about 24 hours per week, both full-time and part-time employees could be eligible for FMLA leave if they meet other conditions.
Finally, an employee’s primary job location must have at least 50 employees working at that location or within a 75-mile radius – meaning remote employees may or may not be eligible.
What Counts as a ‘Covered Employer’?
Not all employers are required to provide FMLA leave, with the primary exception being small businesses with fewer than 50 employees during the current or previous calendar year. Here’s how the U.S. Department of Labor defines a “covered employer” under the FMLA:
- Public agencies (including federal, state, and local governments)
- Primary and secondary schools of any size (both public and private)
- Private-sector employers that meet the 50-employee threshold
Employers that don’t fit into these categories aren’t bound by the FMLA, but they may still choose to offer paid or unpaid leave as an employee benefit.
What Situations Are Covered by the FMLA?
The Family and Medical Leave Act differs from ordinary sick leave in that it’s meant to be used for long-term or ongoing situations. This could take the form of hospitalization, repeated visits to a health care provider for the same medical reason, or parental leave to accommodate the birth of a child. Eligible employees can take unpaid FMLA Florida leave in order to:
- Bond with a newborn child or adopted child
- Bond with a child placed by foster care
- Receive medical care for a serious health condition
- Care for an immediate family member with a serious illness
- Act as a caregiver for an active duty military service member
- Address a qualifying exigency related to a covered service member
In most cases, employees are entitled to 12 weeks of leave in any 12-month period, but military caregivers can take additional leave for a total of 26 workweeks per year.
FMLA leave doesn’t have to be taken all at once, but intermittent leave needs to be approved by the employer (except when it’s medically necessary). Employees may also agree to a reduced schedule in lieu of continuous leave if it better accommodates their health condition.
Employee Rights Under the FMLA in Florida
Florida doesn’t offer paid family leave, temporary disability insurance, or other state-level leave entitlements. So what benefits do employees get with FMLA Florida leave? These include:
- The right to maintain the same employer-based health insurance
- The right to return to the same job or an equivalent position
- The right to use paid sick days as part of FMLA leave
The employer has some FMLA rights, too, including:
- The right to request that an employee provide medical certification of a medical condition
- The right to transfer the employee to an equivalent temporary position
- The right to require the employee to use paid leave days during FMLA leave
It’s important for your human resources department to properly categorize FMLA leave in order to ensure that both the employer and employee meet their legal obligations.
Florida Domestic Violence Leave
Although Florida doesn’t have its own family leave legislation, it does offer additional protections for employees who are victims of domestic violence. This applies to employers with 50 or more employees and provides up to three days of leave in a 12-month period. This leave is unpaid unless the employee uses accrued paid leave hours.
Some domestic violence situations may be covered under FMLA Florida leave, but only those related to receiving medical care. Florida’s domestic violence leave also covers time off to:
- Attend court proceedings
- Obtain mental health care or counseling
- Seek victims’ rights services or legal assistance
- Move to a new home or improve home security
This leave is available to employees who are experiencing domestic violence themselves or who need to assist a family member or household member experiencing it. Employees should provide advance notice of their leave request when possible, and their employer should keep this information confidential and separate from other HR files.
Florida Family Leave for State Employees
Although private-sector employees aren’t covered by Florida leave laws, state employees have an additional set of laws to consider when requesting a leave of absence for family or medical reasons. While FMLA Florida leave is limited to 12 workweeks in a 12-month period, state employees are entitled to a full six months of leave in a 12-month period. This leave is unpaid unless the employee has enough accrued paid leave to draw from.
State employers are required to grant leave for any of the following situations:
- An employee’s pregnancy
- The birth or adoption of a child
- An accident or illness in the family
- Hospitalization or in-home medical treatment
State employees with children can also access one hour of leave per month for school-related activities such as tutoring or guest speaking. All state employees can take up to 30 days of leave per year for family duties such as taking care of elderly parents or relocating a child to a new school.
Florida Family Leave vs. FMLA Leave
Florida’s family leave laws only apply to state employees, so most private-sector employers will only have the opportunity to take FMLA Florida leave. If the employee works for the state, there’s enough overlap between FMLA Florida leave and Florida family leave laws that, in many cases, they’ll apply concurrently and will need to be taken at the same time. But in some instances, an employee might qualify for one and not the other.
For example, Florida’s family leave law covers leave taken during pregnancy, while the FMLA comes into play only if there are complications during pregnancy, or it can be taken after the birth or adoption of a child. Florida’s family leave law also extends to the pregnancy of an employee’s spouse.
If an employee qualifies for Florida family leave but not FMLA Florida leave, they would still be entitled to the full amount of FMLA Florida leave if another qualifying situation arises.
Manage Florida Leave Requests with Pulpstream
Navigating employee leave requests can be complicated, especially in cases where both federal and state leave laws apply. In Florida, most private-sector employers with at least 50 employees are subject to the FMLA, while state employers are subject to FMLA and state-level leave laws. All employers should be aware of Florida’s domestic violence leave laws as well.
Pulpstream makes it easy to determine employee eligibility and maintain compliance with our leave of absence management system. Your HR department can easily track leave balances, while employees can self-service their requests and upload any necessary medical certifications. Plus, our drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to customize your workflow with no computer coding needed.
Contact us today to request a demo and see how it all works!