The state of Georgia doesn’t have any paid leave programs of its own, but employees in Georgia may be eligible for unpaid leave through FMLA — the Family and Medical Leave Act. This federal leave law applies throughout the U.S. and provides up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave in a single 12-month period for certain qualifying reasons.
Having a baby, seeking out treatment for a serious health condition, and caring for an ill or injured military member may all qualify an employee for FMLA in Georgia.
Here’s what you need to know about FMLA leave in Georgia, including how to assess an employee’s eligibility and determine their entitlements under federal law.
What Is FMLA?
The Family and Medical Leave Act has been in place since 1993 when Congress made it a requirement for “covered employers” to offer job-protected leave to employees who meet certain qualifying conditions. Because it applies in all 50 states, employees may be entitled to take 12 weeks of leave under FMLA in Georgia.
Although this leave period isn’t paid, eligible employees are allowed to keep their health insurance while on leave and return to work in the same job or an equivalent role.
In most cases, employees are entitled to a maximum of 12 workweeks of leave in each 12-month period (or 26 weeks of leave to care for a covered service member).
If the employee has accrued any paid sick leave or personal leave, they can draw from this balance while on FMLA leave but can’t use it to extend their leave period.
If an employee doesn’t qualify for FMLA in Georgia, they may still qualify for leave under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if they’re temporarily incapacitated.
Who Qualifies for FMLA in Georgia?
The Family and Medical Leave Act extends to both full-time and part-time employees, and even some seasonal workers may be eligible. But in order to qualify for FMLA in Georgia, employees need to meet the following conditions:
- Have at least 12 months of employment history with the same employer
- Have performed at least 1,250 hours of work in the last 12 months
- Work within a 75-mile radius of at least 50 other employees
The 12 months of employment can be accumulated intermittently, so multiple periods of temporary and seasonal employment can be counted, as long as there aren’t any gaps lasting longer than seven years.
Airline Flight Crew Employees
One industry has a different set of rules: the airline industry. Flight crew members get a total of 72 days of FMLA leave instead of 12 weeks. That’s based on a 6-day workweek rather than the 5-day workweek that applies in other industries.
They also have a different set of eligibility requirements. According to the Department of Labor at DOL.gov, FMLA applies to flight crew members who have worked at least 504 hours and “60 percent of the employee’s applicable monthly guarantee” over the past 12 months. Since Atlanta is a major airline hub, some of these rules might apply to FMLA requests in Georgia.
What Is a Covered Employer?
Although FMLA covers workers in various types of employment, some small businesses may be exempt from FMLA in Georgia. FMLA only applies to private-sector companies that have employed at least 50 workers during at least 20 weeks of the year.
It also applies to government agencies of any size (federal, state, and local), as well as public and private schools (secondary or elementary).
Small businesses that don’t meet the definition of a “covered employer” may choose to offer leave as an employee benefit, but it won’t be guaranteed under federal law.
What Situations Are Covered Under FMLA in Georgia?
Employees can take FMLA leave for a wide range of scenarios, from maternity leave to chronic mental health conditions. Although the specifics may vary, the reason for taking leave typically falls into one of three categories: caring for a newborn child, caring for oneself or a sick family member, or caring for a military service member.
Here’s a closer look at what each type of leave entails.
Under FMLA, Georgia employers may be entitled to 12 weeks of parental leave in order to bond with a new child. Parental leave isn’t gender-specific and applies to any parent needing time off in the first year after:
- The birth of a child
- The adoption of a child
- The arrival of a child into foster care
If both parents work for the same company, they can both qualify for leave, but they’ll have to split the total of 12 workweeks between them. New parents can also request intermittent leave or a reduced work schedule with the employer’s approval.
In the case of pregnancy, the employee’s leave entitlement doesn’t start until after they give birth unless a medical condition arises during the pregnancy. If that’s the case, the employee can request FMLA leave due to illness or incapacity. The employee’s spouse can also request FMLA leave to care for them.
Family and Medical Leave
Taking medical leave under FMLA in Georgia is limited to chronic or ongoing conditions, such as those that require inpatient care or recurring medical appointments. For other scenarios, employees can draw from their personal sick leave allotment.
However, the line between the two can be blurry, and a short-term illness could turn into an ongoing condition that qualifies for FMLA leave. A single overnight stay in a medical facility could trigger FMLA entitlements.
The employer can ask for a medical certification from a health care provider to verify the employee’s condition, as well as a fitness certification when they return to work.
Employees can request FMLA leave to address their own serious injury or illness, or to care for an ill or injured family member. The employee should provide 30 days’ notice when possible, unless the leave is medically necessary and unexpected.
The employee doesn’t have to use the full 12 weeks of leave all at once. They can take intermittent leave in the smallest leave allotment that the employer provides — such as 15 minutes — or an hour, whichever is smaller.
Military Family Leave
There are two kinds of military leave that are covered by FMLA in Georgia: qualifying exigency leave and military caregiver leave. Qualifying exigency leave covers a wide range of scenarios related to a military family member’s deployment, such as:
- Attending military events
- Making financial arrangements
- Post-deployment activities within 90 days
Some types of qualifying exigencies have their own leave allotments, which may be less than the full 12 workweeks available for other types of FMLA leave.
If an employee needs to take time off to care for a family member in the military, they may qualify for military caregiver leave. This type of leave is only available to immediate family members (or next of kin) of active duty military members and veterans who were injured or incapacitated as a result of their military service.
Employees who qualify for military caregiver leave can take up to 26 weeks of leave in any 12-month period, rather than the usual maximum of 12 workweeks.
Making Sense of FMLA in Georgia
The Family and Medical Leave Act provides important protections for employees who might otherwise lose their job or health insurance due to an unexpected illness or injury. But it can also present complications for employers who need to make sure they honor their employees’ rights under federal law.
Pulpstream makes it easy for both parties to navigate FMLA with our leave of absence management system. Not only can employees upload medical documents and service their own leave requests, but your human resources team will be able to speed up the approval process and ensure FMLA compliance all in one place.
Our no-code platform allows you to automate key tasks, digitize the required FMLA paperwork, track leave balances, and more.
Request a demo today to see how Pulpstream works!