The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued Q&As on the federal Family and Medical Leave Act in the context of COVID-19 and other public health emergencies. Under the FMLA, covered employers must provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave for specified family and medical reasons, which may include the flu where complications arise. Employees on FMLA leave are entitled to the continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms as before they took leave.
The Q&As include the following key points, among others:
- The FMLA provides leave for an employee’s serious health condition or to care for a family member’s serious health condition;
- The FMLA does not provide leave for avoiding the workplace out of fear of contracting a disease.
- The FMLA does not require leave for employees caring for dependents who have been dismissed from school or child care.
- Employers requiring a doctor’s note should consider that healthcare resources may be overwhelmed during a pandemic, making it difficult for employees to obtain appointments or verification that they are no longer contagious.
Many of the DOL’s answers encourage employers to consider flexible leave policies for their employees. The Q&As also address the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act to employee leave issues.