QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
FAMILY & MEDICAL LEAVE ACT
Counting FMLA Leave Hours
Q. Is an employee entitled to up to 12 work weeks of FMLA leave within a Postal Service leave year, or during any 12 month period?
A . During a Postal Service leave year.
Q. Do COP, OWCP, military and court leave count toward the "12 months of employment" eligibility requirement for FMLA leave?
A. Yes. However, leave hours do not count towards the eligibility requirement of 1,250 hours worked.
Q. If a carrier had an on-the-job injury, does time spent on OWCP count towards the 1 2-week FMLA leave entitlement?
A. Only if the employee's injury meets the FMLA definition of a "serious health condition.
Q. What if a full-time carrier is on OWCP and able to work 6 hours per day, 5 days per week'? How much time is counted as FMLA leave'?
A. Only the time spent off work is counted toward the FMLA entitlement. In this case 2 hours per day. 5 days per week are counted towards the 480 hour ( 12 week) entitlement.
Which Situations Call for FMLA Leave?
Q. Can an employee use FMLA leave to look for child care'?
A. No; looking for child care is not an FMLA covered condition. However, a supervisor can approve regular annual leave for such a purpose.
Q. A carrier's wife had an operation and the carrier stayed home to take care of her for two weeks. He used his annual leave, however, and did not tell his supervisor the reason for the annual leave. Can he go back now and have the leave counted toward the 12 weeks of FMLA leave?
A. Yes. However, the carrier should notify the employer within two days of returning to work. In addition, medical documentation of his wife's serious health condition may be required.
Q. A carrier's child has asthma. Once a month he takes the child to the doctor for treatment. Does this qualify for FMLA leave?
A. Yes. intermittent absences due to a family member's chronic condition do meet the criteria for FMLA leave. This case and cases similar require the employee and supervisor to have an open line of communication.
Q. Can a carrier take FMLA leave for substance abuse treatment?
A. Yes, but only where the treatment is furnished by a health care provider as defined in the FMLA. Absence because of the employee's use of the substance, rather than for treatment, does not qualify for FMLA leave.
Q. A carrier's father-in-law who lives with her is very ill and requires her care. Would this fall under FMLA leave'?
A. No. FMLA leave may be used to care of only a spouse, parent or child with a serious health condition. "In-laws" do not qualify. Leave taken to care for anyone else would require approval under the usual leave procedures.
Q. May a carrier take 12 weeks of FMLA leave in July when he adopts a child, and then take another 12 weeks of FMLA leave in March of the next leave year?
A. Yes. An employee is entitled up to 12 weeks per leave year to care for new child up to a year from the date the new child arrives.
Q. Can a carrier use sick leave to stay home to take care of his wife, who just gave birth, and to take care of the new baby?
A. Yes, in part. NALC's current National Agreement with the Postal Service established the right to use sick leave to care for a spouse, parent or child (same definitions as in FMLA) who has an illness, injury or condition which, if the employee had it, would justify the use of sick leave. So in this case the carrier may use sick leave to care for his incapacitated wife. He also has the right to use FMLA leaveannual leave or LWOP, in this situationto care for the healthy baby.
Types of Leave Which May Be Taken
Q. A carrier's father needs dialysis treatments once every two weeks. May the carrier take paid sick leave on an intermittent basis to take his father to dialysis?
A. Yes. This situation is covered by the National Agreement's provisions on Sick Leave for Dependent Care, so the carrier may take up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for this purpose. In addition, this situation is covered by the FMLA and the carrier is entitled to intermittent FMLA leave if certified by the health care provider.
Q. May an employee use LWOP for an FMLA-covered situation instead of using accrued annual or sick leave?
A. Under Section 514 of the USPS Employee and Labor Relations Manual, as a general rule management has discretion in the granting of LWOP; this is an administrative decision that must be based on the needs of the employee, the needs of the Postal Service and the cost to the Postal Service. However, if the employee has exhausted paid leave then LWOP must be granted for an FMLA- covered condition.
Q. A carrier's daughter broke her leg and must have complete bed rest for two weeks. The carrier submitted the appropriate documentation in order to stay home and care for her. At the end of the two weeks the doctor told the carrier that her daughter would need an additional three weeks of bed rest. Must the carrier submit additional documentation?
A. Yes. Since the circumstances have changed the supervisor may require additional certification from the health care provider.
Q. How often can the USPS ask for medical documentation to prove a carrier is still entitled to FMLA leave?
A. Generally, after the original medical certification has been submitted, the Postal Service cannot ask for recertification until the expiration of the minimum period of leave certified by the health care provider. If there is no minimum period, management may not ask for recertification more often than every 30 days.
Q. Can a supervisor call a carrier's doctor for additional information about an FMLA medical certification?
A. No. If the employee submits the requested documentation and a supervisor has questions about that documentation, the supervisor must request that a Postal Service health care provider call the employee's health care provider. The employee's health care provider must have the employee's permission to release any information to the Postal Service health care provider, and that information is limited to clarification of documentation already provided.
Q. A carrier and her husband both work for the Postal Service. She is pregnant and going to have a baby in mid-June. Is each employee eligible to take 12 weeks off?
A. Yes. Although the FMLA provides only for a combined 12 weeks in this situation, under Postal Service policy each employee is entitled to 12 weeks off per leave year.
Q. May an employer transfer an employee to an alternative position in order to accommodate intermittent leave or a reduced leave schedule?
A. Yes, when the leave is foreseeable based on planned medical treatments. However, any transfer to an alternative positionincluding a cross craft transferrequires compliance with the National Agreement.
Q. How does a carrier request leave for FMLA reasons?
A. The carrier should complete a 3971, Request for or Notification of Absence. The 3971 has been modified to include an appropriate space for leave designated as FMLA leave. In an emergency situation, a phone call, telegram, etc. will suffice until it is possible to submit the necessary paperwork.
Q. How is time spent in FMLA leave tracked?
A. The employee should always keep a copy of the employer-signed duplicate 3971. In addition, the employer makes an annotation on the 3972, Absence Analysis Card, to the effect that the leave was for a FMLA covered condition.
Q. Can an employee be disciplined or receive other administrative action for absences covered by the FMLA?
A. No. FMLA leave may not be used as a basis for disciplinary purposes under any circumstances. The law prohibits management from interfering with, restraining, or denying the exercise of (or attempts to exercise) any rights provided by the FMLA.
Q. Does a carrier continue to earn sick and annual leave when taking LWOP for an FMLA-covered condition?
A. The FMLA does not change the usual rules for the accrual of leave. When an employee's total time on LWOP during a year reaches 80 hours, his or her leave credits are reduced by the amount normally earned in one pay period. So, for example, six weeks (240 hours) spent on LWOP even for an FMLA-covered conditionwill reduce both annual and sick leave by the amount earned in three pay periods.