Tuesday, April 11, 2023
by Levittown United Teachers (LUT) FMLA Liaison, Caroline Kind
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. FMLA leave includes a continuation of health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.
As the LUT Liaison, I want to do all I can to guide our union brothers and sisters through all the details of FMLA and make sure everyone understands what they need to do to apply for FMLA if they ever need to do so. In this article, I will address some of the questions I have received recently regarding the use of FMLA for maternity leave. Please keep in mind that every situation is different and there are many factors that might impact how FMLA leave can be used. If you ever have any questions about the answers in this article or anything else regarding FMLA, please don’t hesitate to contact me via email at Ckind77@gmail.com.
Question: How do you start the FMLA Process?
Answer: Contact Lori Pagano in the Levittown District Human Resources office via her district email - LPagano@levittownschools.com or by calling the Human Resources Department at (516) 434-7036.
Question: How much time can you take prior to the birth?
Answer: You can take up to 30 days prior to the birth. To take days prior to birth you would use any accumulated sick days that you have.
Question: How many days do I get for maternity leave under FMLA?
Answer: FMLA is 12 weeks. It starts on the 31st day of absence or when the recovery period is over. When there is a full week with no school, the week does not count in FMLA. Days in partial weeks do count in FMLA.
Question: What is the difference between recovery time and bonding time when FMLA is concerned?
Answer: Recovery time is used immediately upon giving birth and begins the day after birth. This does not count weekends but counts 6-8 weeks directly following birth regardless of holidays. You can take up to 30 days for a natural birth and 40 days for a Cesarean delivery (C-section). Bonding is up to 30 consecutive days after recovery time and must fall within the 12 weeks of FMLA. You use accumulated sick days for the bonding period. All bonding time must be used within the first year of birth.
Question: What if I want to take more than 60 days before returning to work?
Answer: If you wish to take more than 60 days, you can take an unpaid leave of absence (LOA).
Question: What are some issues that can come up if I choose to take an LOA?
Answer: During an LOA, you are officially off district payroll. When this happens, you lose days of seniority in the district. If you are off district payroll and do not work 100 days in a given school year, you can miss out on a salary step. Down the road, the loss of credited work time can have an impact on your years of service when determining your pension.
Question: How does taking an LOA impact my health insurance coverage?
Answer: When the district Employee Benefits office is notified that you will be off payroll taking a LOA, they will send you a form to give you an option to pay for a continuance of health coverage, known as COBRA. If that form is not returned to Employee Benefits within 30 days of the date of notification, you will lose your right to elect coverage and your district health coverage will be terminated until such time as your officially return to work at the end of your LOA.