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Your business is running like clockwork. You may finally have a staff who keeps up with your growing clientele and works efficiently together. You know you may have to expand and hire more people in the future, but for now, you can devote yourself to other areas of the company.

Then one of your best employees announces the happy news that she will be having a baby. Or, perhaps, a worker confides that he is beginning treatment for cancer. Your worker requests time off, and you see the careful balance in your Ohio business begin to crumble. Are you required to provide time off for these workers, or can you simply replace them? What are your options under federal employment law?

Qualifying for FMLA leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act places certain obligations on employers to allow their workers to tend to critical family or personal health matters. You may be required to provide unpaid time off for your employees under specific circumstances if your company qualifies with the following factors:

  • You have 50 or more employees.
  • Those employees work within 75 miles of your company.
  • The employee requesting leave under FMLA has worked for you at least 12 months, not necessarily consecutively.
  • The employee worked an average of 24 hours a week during that time.

Employees for government agencies, public schools and any private schools also qualify for up to 12 unpaid weeks off under FMLA. The conditions for which they request leave must include any of the following:

  • An employee or a family member has an injury or illness requiring hospitalization or treatment at a medical facility.
  • An employee is incapacitated during and following pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Your employee and his or her spouse have recently given birth to, adopted or fostered a child into their home and desire time to bond with the child.
  • The spouse of an employee is deployed or activated to military duty.
  • Your employee has suffered a permanent injury or the results of an illness, such as a stroke or terminal disease.
  • Your worker is receiving periodic treatments for an illness, such as chemotherapy, dialysis or physical therapy.

There may be other situations that qualify one of your employees for time off under FMLA, and denying that time is a violation of the law. Your employee would have the right to take legal action if you refused to allow time off or if the employee returned to work to find his or her job — or a comparable position — was no longer available.

When dealing with FMLA regulations, it may be helpful to seek a full understanding of your obligations under the law. An attorney with experience in employment law can assist you in this area as well as represent you when FMLA matters arise that may threaten your business.