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Ward, Hayden
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FMLA Basics for Outfitter Operations

FMLA for Outfitters and Guides

There are times when work and life collide, and one needs to take extended time off from work for a personal health issue or to care for an immediate family member. Yet, your guides may hesitate to request time off even if they are experiencing a severe health issue for fear of losing their job. This is where the Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA), passed in 1993, comes into play to protect employee rights.

In this article, we explore the basics of the Family Medical Leave Act and what it means for your outfitter business and your employees.

What Is the Family Medical Leave Act?

FMLA is a  federal law  that provides eligible employees who work for a covered employer with unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. According to the Department of Labor (DOL), “FMLA is designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons. It also seeks to accommodate the legitimate interests of employers and promote equal employment opportunity for men and women.”

Is My Outfitter Affected?

Businesses classified as covered employers must comply with FMLA provisions. Covered employers include public agencies, state and federal employers, and private-sector employers with 50 or more employees during 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or previous calendar year.

Once an employer meets the requirements for FMLA coverage, the employer is a covered employer and will remain covered if it employs or employed 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current calendar year or the previous calendar year. (See the  DOL website  for more details.)

Outfitter Employer’s Responsibilities

Covered employers must maintain the employee’s health benefits when they take qualified family medical leave. Upon return to work, the employer must restore the employee to the same or equivalent job position. The FMLA also sets requirements for notices by both the employee and the employer and provides employers with the right to require certification of the need for FMLA leave in certain circumstances.

Who Qualifies to Take Family Medical Leave?

Employees must meet specific criteria to access family medical leave, and the leave must be for a qualifying reason. If the employee does not meet the eligibility requirements, an employer may not designate the leave as FMLA even if the leave would otherwise qualify for FMLA protection. If the employee is not eligible for FMLA leave, the employer may grant the employee leave under their policy. Once the employee becomes eligible and the leave is FMLA-qualifying, any remaining leave period taken for an FMLA-qualifying reason becomes FMLA-protected leave.

Employee Eligibility Criteria

  • Has worked for this employer for a total of 12 months (need not be consecutive and can look back up to several years)
  • Has worked at least 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months
  • Works in the United States or any territory or possession of the United States
  • Works at a location where the employer has 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius when the employee requests leave

What Qualifies as Family Medical Leave?

  • Birth of a child to bond with the newborn
  • Time to bond with a child newly placed in the employee’s care for adoption or foster care
  • Care for a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition, including incapacity due to pregnancy, and for prenatal medical care
  • For a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential function of their job, including incapacity due to pregnancy and prenatal medical care
  • Any qualifying difficulty arising from a spouse, child, or parent who is a military member on covered active duty or has been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty

Navigating state and  federal law  regarding family medical leave can be challenging. Some states offer paid family and medical leave funded through employee and/or employer-paid payroll taxes. As  paid leave laws vary from state to state, it is crucial to stay abreast of regulations in your state.

For questions about FMLA compliance and how it affects your outfitter business,  click here.

To learn more about protecting your business with comprehensive insurance coverage,  request a free quote  from CBIZ Adventure Sports Insurance.

This blog may contain scenarios that are provided as examples only. Coverage is subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions of the policy issued. The information provided is general in nature and may be affected by changes in law or the interpretation of such laws. The reader is advised to contact a professional prior to taking any action based upon this information.

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