Family Leave

Policy No: 
2.12
Type of Policy: 
Administrative
Last Revised: 
October 2014
Review Date: 
October 2017
Policy Owner: 
Human Resources
Contact Name: 
Kevin Merkel
Contact Title: 
Senior Director-Payroll and Total Rewards
Contact Email: 
Kevin.Merkel@ohr.gatech.edu
Reason for Policy: 

This policy ensures compliance with applicable law and consistency among institutions of the University System in providing leave to eligible employees under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Policy Statement: 

Georgia Tech complies with the provisions of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. FMLA allows employees to balance their work and family life by the use of paid and unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons. FMLA is a complex policy. Readers should refer to the related documents/resources cited in this policy as well as consult Human Resources for additional information.

Scope: 

All faculty and staff within the Georgia Institute of Technology should be aware of this policy.

Policy Terms: 

Eligibility
To be eligible for federal FMLA leave, an employee must have at least 12 months of total service and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months immediately preceding the beginning of the requested leave. (“Hours worked” does not include time spent on paid leave- sick, vacation, personal, administrative, or unpaid leave).

Health Care Provider
Department of Labor regulations for the FMLA define a health care provider as a doctor of medicine or osteopathy, podiatrist, dentist, chiropractor (limited to treatment consisting of manual manipulation of the spine to correct a subluxation as demonstrated by X-ray to exist), clinical psychologist, optometrist, nurse practitioner, nurse-midwife, or clinical social worker who is authorized to practice by the State and performing within the scope of their practice as defined by State law, or a Christian Scientist practitioner listed with the First Church of Christ Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts.

Spouse
The employee’s legal husband or wife as defined or recognized under State law for purpose of marriage in the State where employee resides

Parent
A biological parent of the employee; an individual who stands or stood “in loco parents” to an employee by providing primary day-to-day care and financial support when the employee was a child; Does not include “parents-in-law”

Child
The employee’s biological son or daughter under the age of 18; a legally-adopted son or daughter under the age of 18; a foster child, stepchild, or ward under the age of 18, legally placed with the employee; any such child over the age of 18 if the child is incapable of self-care due to a mental or physical disability; “incapable of self-care” means requiring active assistance or supervision to provide daily self-care in three or more basic instrumental “activities of daily living” such as grooming & hygiene, bathing, dressing, eating, cooking, taking public transportation, etc.; a “physical or mental disability” is one that substantially limits one or more major life functions as defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Inpatient Care
As defined by FMLA, (i.e. overnight stay) in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility, including any period of incapacity or subsequent treatment in connection with or consequent to inpatient care

Absence plus treatment
As defined by FMLA, a period of incapacity of more than three full consecutive calendar days and any subsequent treatment or period of incapacity relating to the same condition, that also involves (a) treatment two or more times by a health care provider or (b) treatment by a health care provider on at least one occasion which results in a regiment of continuing treatment under the supervision of the health care provider

Pregnancy
Includes prenatal care

Chronic conditions requiring treatment
A chronic condition which 1) requires treatment at least twice a year by a health care provider, or by a nurse or physician’s assistant under direct supervision of a health care provider; 2) continues over an extended period of time (including recurring episodes of a single underlying condition); and 3) may cause episodic rather than a continuing period of incapacity (i.e. asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, etc.).

Permanent long-term conditions
(i.e. Alzheimer’s, a severe stroke, terminal states of a disease)

Multiple treatments of non-chronic conditions
(i.e. cancer and kidney disease)

Injury or Illness in the line of duty
In the case of a current member of the Armed Forces, including a member of the National Guard and Reserves, this means an injury or illness incurred in the line of duty while on active duty, or which existed prior to active duty but was aggravated by service in line of duty while on active duty, that may render the member medically unfit to perform the duties of the member’s office, grade, rank, or rating. In the case of a veteran of the Armed Forces, including a member of the National Guard or Reserves, this means an injury or illness incurred in the line of duty while on active duty, or which existed prior to active duty but was aggravated by service in line of duty while on active duty, and that manifested itself either before or after the covered service member became a veteran.

Procedures: 

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

FMLA Request Procedures
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave each year. The employee must be employed for at least one year and have worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months. Employees may request FMLA for the following reasons:

  • Birth of a child
  • Adoption of a child
  • Serious health condition of the employee, the employee’s child, spouse, or parent
  • Any period of incapacity or treatment connected with inpatient hospital care, hospice, or residential medical care facility
  • Any period of incapacity, sporadic absence from work, school, or other regular daily activities that also involves continuing treatment by a health care provider, or
  • Continuing treatment by a health care provider for a chronic or long-term health condition that is incurable or so serious that if not treated, would likely result in a period of incapacity; and for prenatal care
  • Military Caregiver Leave-An eligible employee who is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin of a covered service member who is recovering from a serious illness or injury sustained in the line of duty on active duty is entitled to up to 26 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period to care for the service member. This provision became effective immediately upon enactment. Military caregiver leave is available during a single 12-month period during which an eligible employee is entitled to a combined total of 26 weeks of FMLA leave. A single 12-month period begins on the 1st day the employee takes military leave and ends 12 months later. A covered service member is a member of the Armed Forces, including a member of the National Guard and Reserves, who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy, is otherwise in outpatient status, or is otherwise on the temporary disability retired list, for a serious injury or illness, OR a veteran who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation or therapy for a serious injury or illness and who was a member of the Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, at any time during the five-year period preceding the date on which the veteran undergoes medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy.
  • Active Duty Leave- Eligible employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of leave because of any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the spouse, son, daughter, or parent of the employee is on active duty, or has been notified of an impending call to active duty status in the Armed Forces in a foreign country. Qualifying exigencies may include: short-notice deployment (7 days notice or less and only available for 7 days total), military events and related activities (such as ceremonies and briefings), child care and school activities (for non-routine matters), financial and legal arrangements, counseling, rest and relaxation (up to 5 days), post-deployment activities (including debriefings or funeral services for up to 90 days following the termination of the covered military member’s active duty status), and any additional activities agreed upon by the Institute and employee.

Benefits and Protections
During FMLA leave, the Institute maintains the employee’s health coverage under any group health plan on the same terms as if the employee had continued to work, provided the employee continues to pay his/her portion of the premium. Use of FMLA leave cannot result in the loss of any employment benefit that accrued prior to the start of an employee leave. If an employee has short term disability insurance, he/she may be eligible to receive these benefits while on leave.

An employee generally has a right to return to the same position or an equivalent position in terms of pay, benefits, and working conditions. Certain “key employees” may be denied job restoration if they are among the highest-paid 10% of employees and if such denial is necessary to prevent substantial and grievous injury to the operations of the employer.

Adverse action or discrimination is prohibited against an employee or prospective employee who has taken FMLA leave and interference with any rights provided by FMLA will not be tolerated, including:

  • Refusing to authorize FMLA leave
  • Discouraging an employee from using FMLA leave
  • Changing the essential functions of the employee’s job to preclude the taking of FMLA leave
  • Reducing hours of work to avoid employee eligibility

The Institute uses a “rolling” 12-month period (rather than a fixed calendar, fiscal, or academic year) to determine eligibility for, and availability of, leave time under FMLA. The 12-month period during which twelve weeks of family leave may be taken shall begin on the first day such family leave is taken.

Eligibility for FMLA leave at any given time is determined by reviewing the twelve months of employment prior to the date that the employee requests FMLA leave to begin. If the employee has not utilized the equivalent of 12 weeks of FMLA-qualifying leave during the 12 months prior to the designated date, then the employee is eligible to take leave on that date, provided that all other eligibility criteria are met.

FMLA leave is unpaid and the Institute requires that employees use their accrued paid sick leave and/or vacation concurrently with FMLA leave before they go into unpaid status. If your FMLA leave is a result of an on-the-job injury however, you have the option of taking unpaid leave even if you have sick leave and/or vacation available. Similarly, an employee on FMLA leave who has short term disability (STD) insurance may go into an unpaid leave status at any point once they begin receiving STD benefits, reserving any remaining sick leave and/or vacation for use after the employee returns from leave. Please note that an employee must use their available accrued sick leave and/or vacation during the STD waiting period. (View Examples)

Accrued sick leave may not be used to make adoption arrangements or to “bond” with a healthy newborn or newly-adopted or placed child therefore, the employee must use accrued vacation time or take time off without pay if no vacation time is available for such a purpose. This time must be taken within the 12 months immediately following the birth, adoption, or placement. Georgia Tech requires that such “bonding” time off be taken as a single continuous period rather than as intermittent.

Leave Administration
An employee is not required to use his or her leave entitlement in one continuous block except when leave is used for “bonding” purposes. The Institute has designated that leave for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement must be for a continuous period and cannot be taken intermittently. Leave can be taken intermittently when medically necessary. The Institute may assign the employee to an alternative position with equivalent pay and benefits that better accommodates the employee’s intermittent leave or reduced work schedule. Assignment of such an alternative position must be coordinated through the Consultancy unit of the Office of Human Resources.

If an employee is on intermittent or reduced schedule FMLA leave and would otherwise be required to work overtime hours, any overtime hours not worked during the leave period count as FMLA leave.

Although intermittent and reduced schedule leave are available for qualifying exigencies, qualifying exigency leave counts against the employee’s total allotment of FMLA leave. The Institute may also request documentation of the need for qualifying exigency leave.

Employees who accept light duty positions in lieu of taking time off from work under FMLA leave cannot have the time spent on light duty counted against their FMLA entitlement.

It is presumed that employees on FMLA for their own serious health conditions are not working outside of the Institute while on FMLA leave. Consulting or outside activity agreements may still apply. The protections of the FMLA will not, however, cover situations where the reason for the leave no longer exists, where the employee has not provided required notices or certifications, or the employee has misrepresented the reason for leave.

Employees must make reasonable efforts to schedule leave for planned medical treatments so as not to unduly disrupt the Institute’s operations. Employees are expected to consult with their supervisors prior to scheduling treatment in order to work out a treatment schedule that best suits the needs of the employee and the Institute.

For purposes of determining the amount of leave used by an employee, the fact that a holiday may occur within the week taken as FMLA leave has no effect; the week is counted as a week of FMLA leave. However, if an employee is using FMLA leave in increments of less than one week, the holiday will not count against the employee’s FMLA entitlement unless the employee was otherwise scheduled and expected to work during the holiday. Similarly, if the Institute’s business operations have ceased and the employees are generally not expected to report for work for one or more weeks (i.e. during winter holiday break), then those days do not count against the employee’s FMLA entitlement.

If both the employee and the employee’s spouse work for the University System of Georgia and are eligible for FMLA, then they are limited to a combined total of:

  • 12 workweeks of FMLA leave during any 12-month period for the birth of a child or the placement of a child for adoption or foster care; or to care for an employee’s parent with a serious health condition; however, each employee may use up to 12 workweeks of FMLA leave during any 12-month period if the leave is for the care of the employee’s spouse or child with a serious health condition or the employee’s own serious health condition
  • 26 workweeks during the single 12-month period if the leave is Military Caregiver Leave or a combination of Military Caregiver Leave and Family Medical Leave, Employee Medical Leave, or Active Duty Leave

Advance Notice and Medical Documentation Requirements
An employee who foresees the need for leave due to a planned medical treatment or other planned FMLA-qualifying reason (i.e. anticipated birth, adoption, or surgery) for herself/himself or for an applicable family member, must notify his/her supervisor in writing as early as possible so that the absence can be scheduled at a time least disruptive to the Institute’s operations. Such notice must be at least 30 calendar days in advance of the start of leave, unless impracticable, in which case the employee must provide written notice as early as circumstances permit.

When the need for leave is not foreseeable, an employee must comply with the Institute’s usual and customary notice and procedural requirements for requesting leave, which includes call-in procedures established by the employee’s department, absent unusual circumstances. When an employee seeks leave due to a qualifying reason for which the Institute has previously provided the employee FMLA-protected leave, the employee must specifically reference the qualifying reason for leave. Calling in “sick” without providing more information will not be considered sufficient notice to trigger the Institute’s obligations under FMLA.

In the case of medical conditions, the Institute may find it necessary to inquire further to determine if the leave is because of a serious health condition and may request medical certification to support the need for such leave. The Institute may also request certification to support the need for leave for a qualifying exigency or for military caregiver leave. Employees must provide the requested certification to the Institute within the time frame requested, unless it is not practicable to do so despite the employee’s diligent, good-faith efforts. The Institute may request recertification at some later date if there is reason to question the appropriateness of the leave or its duration. Failure to provide the needed documentation may result in disapproval of the leave or a delay in its commencement.

If the validity of the medical certification is in doubt, a second opinion may be required with a health care provider chosen by the department and/or Human Resources at the Institute’s expense. If the two opinions conflict, the department may request and pay for a third option. The third opinion will be final and binding.

Georgia Tech has the right to designate as FMLA leave any time off that qualifies as such, even if the time is not specifically requested as FMLA leave per se by the eligible employee.

Recertification
The Institute may request recertification documentation no more often than every 30 days (except as indicated below) and only in connection with an absence by the employee, unless the medical certification indicates that the minimum duration of the condition is more than 30 days, in which case the Institute must wait until that minimum duration expires before requesting recertification. For example, if the medical certification states that an employee will be unable to work, whether continuously or on an intermittent basis, for 40 days, the employer must wait 40 days before requesting recertification.

The Institute may request recertification in less than 30 days if:

  1. The employee requests an extension of leave.
  2. Circumstances described by the previous certification have changed significantly (i.e. the duration or frequency of the absence, the nature or severity of the illness, complications).
  3. The Institute receives information that casts doubt upon the employee’s stated reason for the absence or the continuing validity of the certification.

Georgia Tech FMLA Process

Subject

  1. Employee completes FMLA request paperwork and submits to supervisor or Human Resources mails FMLA paperwork to employee after 3rd full day of consecutive absence.
  2. HR Representative issues Eligibility and Rights & Responsibilities Notice and appropriate certification form to employee within 5 business days after FMLA request notification. Employee must return the certification form to OHR within 15 calendar days.
  3. Supervisor should confer with HR Representative to ensure (1) that the employee’s absence qualifies for FMLA, and (2) that required paperwork is complete. The employee must correct, complete and return all required paperwork within seven calendar days after being notified of any deficiencies in the required documentation.
  4. OHR issues Designation Notice to employee within 5 business days after receiving FMLA certification.
  5. OHR-Benefits maintains FMLA paperwork in a file (separate from employee’s personnel file) which is kept under lock and key.
  6. Department tracks FMLA time taken by employee. Employee must report all time taken for the qualifying FMLA event.

Return to Work
Employees must periodically report to the supervisor regarding their status and intent to return to work if requested to do so by their supervisors. The employee may be required to furnish periodic medical updates to OHR.

Employees are expected to return to work by the end of the approved FMLA leave. If the employee does not return, and if failure to return is not due to a continued or new documented qualifying serious health condition, then the employee may be required to reimburse the Institute for the employer portion of the health coverage premiums it paid on the employee’s behalf during the leave. If the employee is not able to return to work by the end of the approved FMLA leave, he or she still may be eligible to request additional sick or personal leave under those policies. The granting of such additional leave is at the discretion of the Institute. In no case may all leaves combined exceed 12 months. If an employee does not return and is not granted additional leave, employment ends on the last day of the approved FMLA leave.

Employees are required to present a fitness-for-duty certification from their healthcare provider before being reinstated to active duty upon completion of FMLA leave for their own serious health condition. The Institute may require that the certification specifically address the employee’s ability to perform the essential functions of the employee’s job. If reasonable job safety concerns exist, the Institute may require a fitness-for-duty certification before an employee may return to work when the employee takes intermittent leave.

Responsibilities: 

8.1. AVP-OHR
Ensure appropriate utilization of family leave as governed by the FMLA.

8.2. OHR Consultancy
Provide guidance to institution human resources officers on effective utilization of policy and monitor for compliance.

Enforcement: 

Optional: To report suspected instances of noncompliance with this policy, please visit Georgia Tech’s EthicsPoint, a secure and confidential reporting system, at: https://secure.ethicspoint.com/domain/en/report_custom.asp?clientid=7508

Map of Georgia Tech

Compliance and Policy Management
760 Spring Street N.W. Suite 324
Phone: 404-385-0731