The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that provides unpaid leave to employees with a new child, a serious health condition, or a sick family member. FMLA leave is available to employees in all 50 states, and New York is no exception. But New York is one of a handful of states that also has its own paid leave laws.
This means that eligible employees may have more leave benefits in New York state than employees in other parts of the country. It also means that employers need to do their due diligence to ensure they meet their obligations under each program.
Here’s everything you need to know about the eligibility requirements for FMLA in NY, and what other programs may be available under state leave laws.
What Is FMLA?
FMLA refers to the Family and Medical Leave Act, which was passed in 1993 and offers unpaid job-protected leave to eligible employees for any of the following reasons:
- To bond with a newborn child or foster child
- To care for a sick family member
- To treat an employee’s own serious health condition
FMLA offers two important entitlements: The first is job protection, which means that the employee must be allowed to return to work in the same role or an equivalent position. The second is that they can keep their employer-based health benefits while on leave, so they can continue to see the same health care provider.
How Long Is FMLA Leave?
When an employee takes leave under FMLA in New York state, they’re usually entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in any 12-month period. As long as they don’t surpass that total amount, they can take their leave in increments (with their employer’s approval), and they can even take multiple periods of leave for separate qualifying reasons.
One exception is if they’re caring for an active duty service member or are requesting FMLA leave due to a qualifying exigency related to active military service. If that’s the case, they can take an extended leave: up to 26 weeks in any 12-month period.
Since FMLA leave is unpaid, the employer isn’t obligated to pay the employee’s wages while they’re on leave. They are, however, required to maintain the employee’s health insurance coverage and pay their share of the premium.
Who Qualifies for FMLA in NY?
Having a qualifying reason for leave isn’t the only eligibility requirement for FMLA in NY. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s FMLA FAQ page at DOL.gov, employees must work for one of the following types of employers:
- Any public agency (state, local, or federal)
- Any local education agency (including public and private schools)
- Most private-sector companies with at least 50 employees
This means that employees who work for the City of New York or a public school district may be eligible for FMLA, but employees at a small business may not be covered.
Employees also have to work a certain number of hours for the same employer before they’re eligible for FMLA in NY. The minimum amount is 12 months in total during the past seven years, and 1,250 hours during the past 12 months.
Another key requirement is that there must be at least 50 employees of the company within 75 miles of the employee’s primary work location.
If an employee doesn’t meet the eligibility requirements for FMLA, they may still be eligible for alternative leave programs in New York state. Or, they can negotiate with their employer to take unpaid time off instead of job-protected leave.
4 Alternatives to FMLA in NY State
FMLA isn’t the only type of job-protected leave available to employees, and it may not even be the best fit for their situation. That’s why it's important for HR departments to have a thorough FMLA eligibility checklist and leave management system.
In some cases, state leave programs may provide more comprehensive benefits (such as paid family leave) than FMLA does. And in other cases, these programs may apply to smaller businesses that aren’t considered a covered employer under FMLA.
Here are four other programs that NY employees may qualify for:
1. New York State Paid Family Leave
If an employee plans to take parental leave or caregiver leave, then they may be eligible for New York’s Paid Family Leave program. This program is funded by employee payroll deductions, and provides 67% of the employee’s average weekly wage throughout the leave period, up to a maximum of $1,131.08.
For example, if an employee’s average weekly wage was $1,000, they would receive weekly PFL benefits of $670.
The Paid Family Leave program offers the same amount of leave as FMLA (12 weeks), but it has two key differences:
- PFL doesn’t cover time off to address an employee’s own medical condition, while FMLA does
- FMLA defines family members as parents, children, and spouses; PFL extends that definition to include in-laws, grandparents, domestic partners, and (as of 2023) siblings
- PFL kicks in once an employee has spent 26 weeks with the same employer (rather than the 12 months required by FMLA)
If an employee has multiple jobs, they can take PFL leave from both jobs, but it has to be during the same time period.
2. New York Temporary Disability Insurance
The Paid Family Leave program doesn’t cover time off to address an employee’s own health needs, but employees with a temporary medical condition could be eligible for the NY Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program.
This program covers temporary incapacity that is not job-related (i.e., not covered by workers’ compensation), including accidents or disability due to pregnancy.
Employees can take up to 26 weeks of paid leave under this program. However, it isn’t as generous as PFL leave, with benefits capped at $170 per week.
3. New York Military Family Leave
The Military Family Leave program has a broader scope than FMLA in NY, because it extends to businesses with 20 employees, not the 50 required by FMLA. It offers the same benefits as the PFL program, providing up to 67% of normal weekly wages.
Employees can’t take Military Family Leave for their own deployment, but for duties that arise while a service member is away on duty. For example, a service member’s spouse or domestic partner could take leave to care for a child, make financial arrangements, or attend an official military event or ceremony.
4. New York's Paid Sick Leave Law
Finally, New York’s Paid Sick Leave laws may come into play when an employee makes an FMLA leave request. This law has only been on the books since 2020, but it entitles employees to 56 hours of paid sick leave per year (40 for smaller employers).
In most cases, employees accrue 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of work — but federal, state, and local government workers are not covered by this policy.
Employees can take sick leave for situations that may not be covered by FMLA (such as some mental health treatments), or they may take it concurrently with FMLA leave if the purpose of the leave meets the criteria for both policies.
Streamline LoA Requests With Pulpstream
Leave management can be a time-consuming process, especially if employees qualify for leave under more than one program. In New York state, employees may be eligible for FMLA, Paid Family Leave, Temporary Disability Insurance, and more.
With Pulpstream, you can simplify your LoA management process to save time, ensure compliance, and simplify the LoA process for employees and your HR team alike. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to design your own workflows with a drag-and-drop interface — no coding skills required!
Contact us today to request a demo and learn more.