How the Federal FMLA Interacts with States’ FML Programs: Part I

As businesses continue to expand their workforce across state lines, it can become difficult to navigate and keep track of how the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) interacts and overlaps with state family and medical leave programs. Some states have both paid and unpaid leave legislation, like Connecticut, which also get thrown into the mixing pot. This multi-part blog series will help unweave the complicated web of how state programs interface with the federal program.

On today’s docket are three paid leave programs and one unpaid: New York Paid Family Leave (NY PFL), Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (MA PFML), Connecticut Paid Family and Medical Leave (CT PFML), and Connecticut Family and Medical Leave (CT FML). Enjoy and keep an eye out for the next installment.

Federal FMLA & NY PFL:

The NY PFL allows New York-based employees access to paid leave for qualified events. An employee’s NY PFL leave will generally run concurrently with federal FMLA leave, provided that the leave is sought for a reason available under both laws. One example would be to care for a spouse with a serious health condition. An employer must inform the employee of this concurrent designation, or the two types of leave will run independently. Employers should make clear in their policies that FMLA may run concurrently with PFL, when applicable. If the employer fails to provide such notice to employees, the employer will be deemed to have permitted the eligible employee to receive family leave benefits without concurrently using the benefits available under FMLA. Additionally, certain types of leave are available under the FMLA but not PFL, such as leave to care for the employee’s own serious health condition. Under those circumstances, employees would have only their FMLA designated.

Federal FMLA & MA PFML:

MA PFML provides Massachusetts-based employees paid leave for qualified events. Like the NY PFL discussed above, where an employee’s situation qualifies for multiple types of leave benefits, those leave benefits run concurrently. Consequently, FMLA and MA PFML will run concurrently in most circumstances.  Employers should implement a workplace policy providing information about FMLA and MA PFML, the circumstances under which employees can take MA PFML, and how MA PFML will interact with the employer’s other leave policies (e.g., clarifying when the leave will run concurrently). Though MA PFML and FMLA time can run concurrently, the two laws contain a major difference in that, under the MA PFML, employers may not compel an employee to exhaust rights to any sick, vacation, or personal time prior to or while taking leave under the MA PFML. In contrast, the FMLA does allow employers to require that employees use these types of leave concurrently with FMLA leave.

Federal FMLA & CT PFML:

The CT PFML allows employees access to paid leave for life events covered under the federal FMLA.  Federal FMLA will run concurrently with CT PFML if the employee elects to use CT PFML and the leave reason is also covered by FMLA. There is no job protection component under CT PFML; however, job-protection stems from the federal FMLA.  Employees can choose whether to use CT PFML when taking leave for a covered reason, or to save or defer their benefits to a later time; employees cannot choose whether to apply the federal FMLA when taking leave for a covered reason.

Federal FMLA & CT FML:

The federal FMLA is largely similar to CT FML. However, some key differences include:

  • Covered employers:
    • The federal law covers all employers with at least 50 employees. It also covers all public-sector employers regardless of their number of employees. In an effort to be aligned with CT PFML when it goes into effect, starting on January 1, 2022, the CT FML’s requirements will expand from employers with 75 or more employees to include employers with only one or more employees working in Connecticut, and their employees who have worked for them for at least three months.
  • Eligible employees:
    • To be eligible under the federal law, employees must have worked for their employer for at least 1,250 workhours over the 12 months prior to the leave. Starting on January 1, 2022 there will not be hours worked requirements for eligibility for CT FML, however, the employee must have been employed at least three months immediately preceding his or her request for leave.
  • Length of leave:
    • The federal FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks (up to 26 weeks for military caregiver leave) of unpaid leave during a 12-month period. Beginning January 1, 2022, under CT FML, employees will be entitled to up to 12 weeks of leave allowed (up to 16 weeks for military caregiver leave) in a 12-month period and an additional 2 weeks of leave may be available for incapacitation during pregnancy.

CT PFML & CT FML:

The CT PFML allows employees access to paid leave for life events covered under the CT FML and/or CT leave for family violence. The CT PFML program provides partial wage replacement benefits to eligible employees on leave, but the requirement for an employer to provide job-protected leave (unpaid by the employer) stems from the state FMLA. CT PFML will generally run concurrently with CT FML when used for a permitted purpose under both laws and if the employee elects to use CT PFML. The Connecticut Labor Commissioner will adopt regulations to clarify and implement the CT PFML program, and amend the CT FML, by January 1, 2022.

Starting on January 1, 2022, the CT FML’s requirements will expand to include almost all private-sector employers, regardless of their size, and their employees who have worked for them for at least three months. The list of family members for whom an employee may take leave will also expand to include a spouse, sibling, son or daughter, grandparent, grandchild or parent, or an individual related to the employee “by blood or affinity whose close association the employee shows to be the equivalent of those family relationships.”  As mentioned in the federal FMLA and CT PFML comparison, employees can choose whether to use CT PFML when taking leave for a covered reason, or to save or defer their benefits to a later time; however, employees cannot choose whether to apply the CT FML when taking leave for a covered reason.

What ReedGroup is doing

At ReedGroup, we are the experts at leave management solutions, providing both outsourcing and software solutions to support leave of absence needs, including helping navigate the complicated world of overlapping and interfacing leaves of absence. You can outsource management of some or all of your employees’ leaves to ReedGroup, or choose our software-as-a-service (SaaS) to better manage absence in-house. Need more help? Contact us to get started.

 

Information provided on this blog is intended for general educational use. It is not intended to provide legal advice. ReedGroup does not provide legal services. Consult an attorney for legal advice on this or any other topic.