My family and I have had a rough year health wise. My elderly mother was laid up for weeks with pneumonia in April, my son broke his leg in August, and I've just discovered I will need back surgery soon. I've already taken eight weeks of FMLA leave this year, and my doctor predicts I'll be unable to work for at least six weeks following my back surgery. I know I only get 12 weeks of FMLA leave per year. Should I schedule my surgery for January, to make sure I have my full 12 weeks available?
Your strategy might not work. An employee's 12 weeks of leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) don't automatically renew at the beginning of the calendar year. The FMLA gives employers four options for calculating the leave year. Depending on which method your company uses, your time off might be limited for now.
For most types of leave, the FMLA gives employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off in a 12-month period. (The FMLA also entitles employees to take up to 26 weeks of time off to care for a family member who was injured in military service, but it doesn't sound like this applies in your situation.) There are four ways an employer may calculate the 12-month period. How much leave you have available to use will depend on which of the following methods your employer uses:
Savvy employers tend to use the last method, looking backwards. It's the only method that doesn't create the potential for an employee to take more than 12 weeks of leave at once.
Your employer must choose a leave-year calculation method and use it consistently for everyone. And, your employer should notify employees of the chosen method in its written FMLA policy. If an employer doesn't announce its calculation method, employees are free to use whichever of the four methods is most favorable to them, no matter what the employer wants.