FAQ - Family Medical Leave

Policies

Q.
Am I required to provide medical certification for my leave under FMLA or OFLA?

A. Washington County can make medical inquiries whenever they are "job-related and consistent with business necessity" For leaves due to the serious health condition of you or your qualified family member, Washington County is entitled to require sufficient medical verification to determine if your absence is for a qualifying family leave reason. For sick child leave under OFLA, medical certification can only be required after the third day or third occurrence of such leave.

Q.
Am I required to use my accrued leave banks during a qualified family medical leave?

A. For absences due to your serious health condition or that of a qualified family member, Washington County requires that you exhaust all accrued sick leave, then any other accrued paid leave (vacation, floating holiday, and administrative leave) before going into unpaid leave. For parental leave, you may elect to use up to the equivalent of six (6) weeks of accrued sick leave prior to using other accrued paid leaves. Once six weeks of accrued sick leave has been used, you will be required to use all accrued paid leave. Upon exhaustion of all other accrued paid leave, you may elect to use any remaining accrued sick leave, or you may begin unpaid leave for the duration of your qualified ‘parental leave’.

Example: An employee requests ten weeks of family leave to care for her sick parent. The employee has accrued five weeks of vacation leave and two of sick. Washington County requires that employees use sick leave accruals, then vacation accruals, administrative leave and floating holiday before going into unpaid leave. In this example, the employee would be required to use her accrued paid sick leave (2 weeks) as well as the accrued vacation leave (5 weeks). The employee must then take the remaining three weeks as unpaid leave.

Q.
Are both parents entitled to a full 12 weeks of parental leave?

A. Yes. However, Washington County may require that the parents take their parental leave at different times instead of concurrently if the concurrent leave would result in a business hardship. Unless approved by the appointing authority, family members that are both working for Washington County will be allowed to take concurrent leave only if one of the employees is caring for another employee who is suffering from a serious health condition.

Q.
Are there any additional leave entitlements for employees under OFLA or FMLA?

A. A few notable additions to leave entitlements are listed below:

-OFLA allows a woman using leave due to an illness, injury or condition related to pregnancy or childbirth to take an additional 12 weeks of OFLA during the same leave year.

-OFLA allows a parent who uses a full 12 weeks of parental leave to use up to 12 weeks of leave to care for a child due to a non-serious health condition that requires home care (‘sick child leave’).

-The Oregon Military Family Leave Act (OMFLA) allows an eligible employee to take up to 14 calendar days per call or order to active duty or notification of leave from deployment.

-FMLA allows an eligible employee who is the spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin of a covered military service member to take up to 26 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period to care for the military service member who is recovering from a serious illness or injury incurred in the line of duty on active duty in the Armed Forces.

Q.
Can absences due to a job-related illness or injury also be counted as leave under OFLA or FMLA?

A. Any period of leave as a result of a disabling, compensable job-related illness or injury may be counted towards FMLA entitlements if it meets the definition of a serious health condition under FMLA. Under OFLA, periods of leave due to a disabling, compensable on-the-job injury may not be counted as qualified family leave and therefore may not be counted against an employee’s OFLA entitlements.

Q.
Can an employee who is in the process of adopting a child, take time off work to meet with the adoption agency and to attend court hearings?

A. A qualified employee may take protected leave to arrange for an adoption or placement of a foster child, which include absences to attend counseling sessions, court appearances, and consultations with an attorney or doctor related to the adoption process. Such absences qualify as ‘parental leave’. An employee is entitled to use the remainder of their FMLA or OFLA entitlements to care for and bond with the new child within the first year after the adoption or foster care placement (parental leave).

Q.
Can Washington County legally count time against FMLA or OFLA leave even though I only requested sick leave?

A. If you or a qualified family member have a qualifying serious health condition, Washington County is entitled to designate your absence as family leave and count the time towards your 12-week entitlement, even though you haven't specifically requested OFLA or FMLA leave.

Q.
Does parental leave automatically begin when an employee’s baby is born?

A. Under FMLA and OFLA, an employee may choose to begin their parental leave any time after the birth, adoption, or placement of a foster child, so long as the parental leave is completed by the child’s first birthday or one year from the adoption or placement of a foster child.

Q.
Does the time an employee works in a modified duty capacity count towards FMLA?

A. Work that an employee performs in modified duty does not count as FMLA leave. However, if a work schedule is reduced as a result of a serious health condition, the absences from duty will be counted towards OFLA and FMLA entitlements. For example, if a FT employee (40 hours per week) is temporarily reduced to half-time (20 hours per week) due to a serious health condition, the 20 hours that the employee is absent during each week will be counted towards OFLA and/or FMLA.

Q.
How are absences under OFLA and FMLA different than just using sick leave?

A. Under Washington County’s Personnel Rules and Regulations, absences from duty can be treated as unexcused and employees can be disciplined for habitual or excessive absences or abuse of sick leave privileges. However, when you are absent due to a qualifying situation under OFLA or FMLA, Washington County may not treat these absences as unexcused or disciplinary incidents under attendance policies. In addition, employees have reinstatement rights when their protected leave ends.

Q.
How is an employee’s job protected during a leave qualified under OFLA or FMLA?

A. Washington County must allow an employee that takes qualified leave under OFLA or FMLA to return to their former position or to an available equivalent position if the former position no longer exists.

Q.
How much leave can an employee take under OFLA and FMLA?

A. Generally, a qualified employee is entitled to a total of 12 weeks of protected leave within a leave year for any qualified event.

Q.
If employers are covered by both OFLA and FMLA, does that mean that employers are required to give 24 weeks of leave, instead of 12 weeks, in a year?

A. Leaves that qualify under both OFLA and FMLA will run concurrently, with an employee generally being entitled to a total of 12 weeks of protected leave. For example, if an employee needs 12 weeks to care for a parent with a serious health condition, the 12 weeks are counted against OFLA and FMLA and the employee will exhaust their leave entitlements under both OFLA and FMLA. For leaves that qualify under OFLA, but not FMLA (serious health condition of a grandparent), absences are counted against OFLA, but not FMLA. As a result an employee that uses 12 weeks to care for a grandparent with a serious health condition will have exhausted their OFLA entitlements, but will still have 12 weeks of protected leave under FMLA remaining. In such cases, an employee may be entitled to more than 12 weeks of protected leave in a leave year.

Q.
Is a temporary employee entitled to take OFLA or FMLA leave?

A. A temporary employee is entitled to OFLA or FMLA leave provided the individual meets the eligibility requirements under OFLA or FMLA

Q.
Is it required that an employee be notified that time off is being designated as family leave under OFLA or FMLA?

A. Washington County will provide an employee with a written notice informing them of the leave designation and that their leave will be charged to their FMLA or OFLA leave bank. In addition, the written notice will provide the employee with information regarding their rights and responsibilities under FMLA or OFLA.

Q.
What events qualify for leave under OFLA and FMLA?

A. A few notable differences are listed below:

-OFLA allows leave for a parent to care for a child due to a non-serious health condition that requires home care (‘sick child leave’).

-During a period of military conflict, OFLA allows a covered employee up to 14 calendar days of leave per deployment for a spouse or same-sex domestic partner of a member of the Armed Forces, National Guard, or military reserve forces who has been called to active duty or notified of impending call to active duty, or who is on leave from active duty.

-OFLA allows leave for the serious health condition of parent-in-law, same-sex domestic partner, grandparent, and grandchild.

-FMLA allows leave for any qualifying exigency occurring because an employee’s spouse, son, daughter or parent is on active duty in the uniformed services or has been notified of an impending call to active duty status in support of a contingency operation.

-FMLA allows an eligible employee to take a combined total of 26 workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a family member who is serving in the military and has a serious injury or illness incurred in the line of duty while on active duty.

Q.
What is included in pregnancy disability leave under OFLA or FMLA?

A. Pregnancy disability leave covered under both OFLA and FMLA is defined to include incapacity due to pregnancy or childbirth and may include:
-Partial day or full-day absences for serious morning sickness;
-Periods of bed rest ordered by the pregnant employee’s physician;
-A reduced work schedule necessitated by pregnancy complications;
-Routine prenatal visits to the doctor; and
-Leave following the childbirth, when the employee is still incapacitated.

Q.
What is the purpose of OFLA and FMLA?

A. FMLA and OFLA are intended to allow employees to balance their work and family life by taking reasonable unpaid leave for certain qualifying situations. The Act is intended to balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families, to promote the stability and economic security of families, and to promote national interests in preserving family integrity.

When a family emergency arises, requiring workers to attend to their own serious health condition or that of a qualified family member, or to bond with a newly-born infant or newly adopted child, workers need assurance that they will not be asked to choose between continuing their employment, and meeting their personal and family obligations or tending to vital needs at home.

Q.
What laws require employers to give family leave?

A. The Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) each requires employers to provide eligible employees up to 12 weeks of protected leave during a leave year in certain qualifying situations.

Q.
What notice is required from an employee wishing to take leave?

A. An employee is required to give written notice to Washington County 30 days in advance of the leave if the leave is foreseeable. If 30 days notice is not possible, an employee must give as much notice as practicable. For unforeseeable or emergency situations, verbal or written notice is required within 24 hours before or after starting the leave, with written notice being required within 3 days after the employee returns to work

Q.
Who has to pay for the cost of the medical verification?

A. Washington County is required to pay out-of-pocket costs associated with OFLA or FMLA medical verifications.

Q.
Who is eligible to take FMLA leave?

A. An employee must have been employed by Washington County for a total of at least 12 months (not necessarily consecutive); and must have worked for at least 1,250 hours during the 12 month period immediately preceding the leave.