FAQ – Family Medical Leave for Trainees

What is FMLA?

The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 legislates that UTMF must provide up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12 month contract period. It may be granted for one of the following reasons:

  • Birth of a child and the care after such birth for either parent;
  • Placement of a child for adoption or foster care;
  • Serious health condition of the spouse, child, or parent of the employee; or
  • Serious health condition of the employee

What is the benefit of FMLA to an employee?

FMLA ensures an employee who qualifies for FMLA that his/her job is protected as long as he/she remains on FMLA  even if the employee is in an unpaid leave status.

Must the twelve weeks be taken for only one qualifying reason?

No.  For example, if an employee is off under FMLA status for 8 weeks due to the birth of a child and six months after returning to work her parent becomes seriously ill, the employee may qualify to take up to 4 additional weeks off as FMLA covered leave (with or without paid leave) to care for the parent.

When must an employee be placed on FMLA?

Employees’ medical conditions are their business.  However, when a supervisor notices that an employee has repeated absences for the same condition or when an employee brings to the supervisor’s attention the need for extended leave, the supervisor should discuss FMLA with the employee, explaining what it covers, placing the employee on FMLA pending medical certification if the leave appears to meet the criteria, and asking the employee to obtain a certification from the his/her physician to determine if the employee qualifies for FMLA.  If the physician certifies the employee’s illness (or the illness of the employee’s spouse or parent) meets the ‘serious health condition’ definition, the FMLA status will stand.  Any medical documentation or certification which a supervisor receives is confidential and must be maintained in an employee medical file separate from the employee’s departmental personnel file.

Can the employee work while on FMLA?

Yes.  If the employee requires a reduced work schedule or leave on an intermittent basis, the days when the employee is not able to work will be counted as FMLA.

What is an employee’s responsibility while on FMLA?

The employee must comply with the conditions of the leave.  He/she may be required to present a certification from the attending physician to qualify for the FMLA protection, and he/she may be required to present recertification from his/her health care provider at 30 day intervals.  The employee will be required to exhaust all sick leave (if applicable) and all vacation leave while on FMLA.  At that point the employee will continue in an unpaid status as long as he/she qualifies for FMLA.  (The University will continue to pay the employee’s premium sharing while on FMLA.) The individual may not take unpaid leave in order to save the paid leave for a later time.

What about my medical records?  Is the information kept confidential?

All medical certifications of serious health conditions, whether of the employee or an employee’s family member are considered confidential medical records. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires that the records be kept separate from personnel files and be maintained in confidence. In addition, the employee’s own medical records are subject to American With Disabilities Act (ADA) restrictions. To avoid possible claims, all certifications and other FMLA records should be maintained in confidential medical files. Access should be limited to those with a strict need to know.

How can I get more information on FMLA?

The Handbook of Operating Procedures gives the UT-Houston policy regarding FMLA.  This policy is the same policy used by the University of Texas System Medical Foundation for its employees.