Employees may be entitled to an unpaid leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This policy provides you information concerning FMLA entitlements and obligations you may have during such leaves.

I.  Eligibility

 FMLA leave is available to "eligible employees"

To be an "eligible employee," the employee must: 1) have been employed by Bethel for at least 12 months; 2) have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours during the 12-month period immediately preceding the commencement of the leave; and 3) be employed at a worksite where 50 or more company employees are located within 75 miles of the worksite. 

II. Entitlements

As described below, the FMLA provides eligible employees with a right to leave, health insurance benefits and, with some limited exceptions, job restoration.

A. Basic FMLA Leave Entitlement

The FMLA provides eligible employees up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons during a 12-month period. The 12-month period is determined based on a rolling 12-month period measured backward from the date an employee uses his/her FMLA leave. Leave may be taken for anyone, or for a combination, of the following reasons:

  •   To care for the employee's child after birth or placement for adoption or foster care.
  •   To care for the employee's spouse, son, daughter, or parent (but not in-law) who has a serious health condition.
  •   For the employee's own serious health condition (including any period of incapacity due to pregnancy, prenatal medical care, or childbirth) that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the employee's job; and/or
  •   Because of any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee's spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a military member on covered active duty or called to covered active-duty status (or has been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty) in the Reserves component of the Armed Forces for deployment to a foreign country in support of contingency operation or Regular Armed Forces for deployment to a foreign country.

A serious health condition is an illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition that involves either an overnight stay in a medical care facility, or continuing treatment by a health care provider for a condition that either prevents employees from performing the functions of their job or prevents the qualified family member from participating in school or other daily activities. Subject to certain conditions, the continuing treatment requirement may be met by a period of incapacity of more than 3 consecutive calendar days combined with at least two visits to a health care provider or one visit and a regimen of continuing treatment, or incapacity due to pregnancy, or incapacity due to a chronic condition. Other conditions may meet the definition of continuing treatment.

Qualifying exigencies may include attending certain military events, arranging for alternative childcare, addressing certain financial and legal arrangements, attending certain counseling sessions, caring for the parents of the military member on covered active duty and attending post- deployment reintegration briefings.

B. Additional Military Family Leave Entitlement (Injured Servicemember Leave)

In addition to the basic FMLA leave entitlement discussed above, an eligible employee who is the spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin of a covered servicemember is entitled to take up to 26 weeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for the servicemember with a serious injury or illness. Leave to care for a servicemember shall only be available during a single12 - month period and, when combined with other FMLA-qualifying leave, may not exceed 26 weeks during the single 12-month period. The single 12-month period begins on the first day an eligible employee takes leave to care for the injured servicemember.

A "covered servicemember" is a current member of the Armed Forces, including a member of the National Guard or Reserves, who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy, is otherwise in outpatient status or is on the temporary retired list, for a serious injury or illness. These individuals are referred to in thispolicy as "current members of the Armed Forces." Covered servicemembers also include a veteran who is discharged or released from military services under condition other than dishonorable at any time during the five years preceding the date the eligible employee takes FMLA leave to care for the covered veteran, and who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation or therapy for a serious injury or illness. These individuals are referred to in this policy as "covered veterans."

The FMLA definitions of a "serious injury or illness" for current Armed Forces members and covered veterans are distinct from the FMLA definition of "serious health condition" applicable to FMLA leave to care for a covered family member.

C.  Intermittent Leave and Reduced Leave Schedules

FMLA leave usually will be taken for a period of consecutive days, weeks, or months. However, employees also are entitled to take FMLA leave intermittently or on a reduced leave schedule when medically necessary due to a serious health condition of the employee or covered family member or the serious injury or illness of a covered servicemember. Qualifying exigencies leave also may be taken on an intermittent basis.

D. No Work While on Leave

The taking of another job while on family/medical leave or any other authorized leave of absence is grounds for immediate discharge, to the extent permitted by law.

E.  Protection of Group Health Insurance benefits

 During FMLA leave, eligible employees are entitled to receive group health plan coverage on the same terms and conditions as if they had continued to work.

F.  Restoration of Employment and Benefits

 At the end of FMLA leave, subject to some exceptions including situations where job restoration of "key employees" will cause the company substantial and grievous economic injury, employees generally have a right to return to the same or equivalent positions with equivalent pay, benefits, and other employment terms. The company will notify employees if they qualify as "key employees," if it intends to deny reinstatement, and of their rights in such instances. Use of FMLA leave will not result in the loss of any employment benefit that accrued prior to the start of an eligible employee's FMLA leave.

G. Notice of Eligibility for, and Designation of, FMLA Leave

Employees requesting FMLA leave are entitled to receive written notice telling them whether they are eligible for FMLA leave and, if not eligible, the reasons why they are not eligible. When eligible for FMLA leave, employees are entitled to receive written notice of 1) their rights and responsibilities in connection with such leave; 2) the company’s designation of leave as FMLA-qualifying or non-qualifying, and if not FMLA-qualifying, the reasons why; and 3) the amount of leave, if known, that will be counted against the employee's leave entitlement.

The company may retroactively designate leave as FMLA leave with appropriate written notice to employees provided the company’s failure to designate leave as FMLA- qualifying at an earlier date did not cause harm or injury to the employee. In all cases where leaves qualify for FMLA protection, the company and employee can mutually agree that leave be retroactively designated as FMLA leave.

III.   Employee FMLA Leave Obligations

A. Provide Notice of the Need for Leave

Employees who take FMLA leave must timely notify the company of their need for FMLA leave. The following describes the content and timing of such employee notices.

 B. Content of Employee Notice

To trigger FMLA leave protections, employees must inform their manager and/or their Supervisor and OPC of the need for FMLA-qualifying leave and the anticipated timing and duration of the leave, if known. Employees may do this by either requesting FMLA leave specifically or explaining the reasons for leave so as to allow the company to determine that the leave is FMLA-qualifying. For example, employees might explain that:

  •   a medical condition renders them unable to perform the functions of their job; they have been hospitalized overnight.
  •   they or a covered family member are under the continuing care of a health care provider.
  •   the leave is due to a qualifying exigency caused by a military member being on covered active duty or called to covered active-duty status to a foreign country; or
  •   if the leave is for a family member, that the condition renders the family member unable to perform daily activities or that the family member is a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness.

Calling in "sick," without providing the reasons for the needed leave, will not be considered enough notice for FMLA leave under this policy. Employees must respond to the company’s questions and complete and return any required paperwork on a timely basis to determine if absences are potentially FMLA-qualifying.

If employees fail to explain the reasons for FMLA leave, the leave may be denied. When employees seek leave due to FMLA-qualifying reasons for which the company has previously provided FMLA-protected leave, they must specifically reference the qualifying reason for the leave or the need for FMLA leave.

 C. Timing of Employee Notice

Employees must provide 30 days' advance notice of the need to take FMLA leave when the need is foreseeable. When 30 days' notice is not possible, or the approximate timing of the need for leave is not foreseeable, employees must provide the company notice of the need for leave as soon as practicable under the facts and circumstances of the case. Employees who fail to give 30 days' notice for foreseeable leave without a reasonable excuse for the delay, or otherwise fail to satisfy FMLA notice obligations, may have FMLA leave delayed or denied.

D. Cooperate in the Scheduling of Planned Medical Treatment (Including Accepting Transfers to Alternative Positions) and Intermittent Leave or Reduced Leave Schedules

When planning medical treatment, employees must consult with the company and make a reasonable effort to schedule treatment so as not to unduly disrupt the operations, subject to the approval of the employee's health care provider. Employees must consult with the company prior to the scheduling of treatment to work out a treatment schedule that best suits the needs of both the company and the employee, subject to the approval of the employee's health care provider. If an employee providing notice of the need to take FMLA leave on an intermittent basis for planned medical treatment neglects to fulfill this obligation, Bethel may require employee to attempt to make such arrangements, subject to the approval of the employee's health care provider.

When employees take intermittent or reduced work schedule leave for foreseeable planned medical treatment for the employee or a family member, including during a period of recovery from a serious health condition or to care for a covered servicemember, the  company  may temporarily transfer employees, during the period that the intermittent or reduced leave schedules are required, to alternative positions with equivalent pay and benefits for which the employees are qualified and which better accommodate recurring periods of leave.

When employees seek intermittent leave or a reduced leave schedule for reasons unrelated to the planning of medical treatment, upon request, employees must advise the company of the reason why such leave is medically necessary. In such instances, the company and employee shall attempt to work out a leave schedule that meets the employee's needs without unduly disrupting the company’s operations, subject to the approval of the employee's health care provider.

E. Submit Medical Certifications Supporting Need for FMLA Leave (Unrelated to Requests for Military Family Leave)

Depending on the nature of FMLA leave sought, employees may be required to submit medical certifications supporting their need for FMLA-qualifying leave. As described below, there generally are three types of FMLA medical certifications: an initial certification, a recertification, and a return to work/fitness for duty certification. It is the employee's responsibility to provide the company with timely, complete, and enough medical certifications. Whenever the company requests employees to provide FMLA medical certifications, employees must provide the requested certifications within 15 calendar days after the company's request. The company will inform employees if submitted medical certifications are incomplete or insufficient and provide employees at least seven calendar days to cure deficiencies. The company will deny FMLA leave to employees who fail to timely cure deficiencies or otherwise fail to timely submit requested medical certifications.

With the employee's permission, the company (through individuals other than the employee's direct supervisor) may contact the employee's health care provider to authenticate or clarify completed and enough medical certifications. If employees choose not to provide the company with authorization allowing it to clarify or authenticate certifications with health care providers, the company may deny FMLA leave if certifications are unclear.

Whenever the company deems it appropriate to do so, it may waive its right to receive timely, complete and/or enough FMLA medical certifications.

 F. Initial Medical Certifications

Employees requesting leave because of their own, or a covered relation's, serious health condition, or to care for a covered servicemember, must supply medical certification supporting the need for such leave from their health care provider or, if applicable, the health care provider of their covered family or service member. If employees provide at least 30 days' notice of medical leave, they should submit the medical certification before leave begins. A new initial medical certification will be required on an annual basis for serious medical conditions lasting beyond a single leave year.

If the company has reason to doubt initial medical certifications, it may require employees to obtain a second opinion at the company’s 's expense. If the opinions of the initial and second health care providers differ, the company may, at its expense, require employees to obtain a third, final and binding certification from a health care provider designated or approved jointly by the company and the employee.

G. Medical Recertifications

Depending on the circumstances and duration of FMLA leave, the company may require employees to provide recertification of medical conditions giving rise to the need for leave. The company will notify employees if recertification is required and will give employees at least 15 calendar days to provide medical recertification.

H. Return to Work/Fitness for Duty Medical Certifications

Unless notified that providing such certifications is not necessary, employees returning to work from FMLA leaves that were taken because of their own serious health conditions that made them unable to perform their jobs must provide the company with medical certification confirming they are able to return to work and the employees' ability to perform the essential functions of the employees' position, with or without reasonable accommodation. The company may delay and/or deny job restoration until employees provide return to work/fitness for duty certifications.

I. Submit Certifications Supporting Need for Military Family Leave

Upon request, the first-time employees seek leave due to qualifying exigencies arising out of the covered active duty or call to covered active-duty status of a military member, the company may require employees to provide:

  1. a copy of the military member's active-duty orders or other documentation issued by the military indicating the military member is on covered active duty or call to covered active-duty status and the dates of the military member's covered active-duty service; and
  2. a certification from the employee setting forth information concerning the nature of the qualifying exigency for which leave is requested. Employees shall provide a copy of new active-duty orders or other documentation issued by the military for leaves arising out of qualifying exigencies arising out of a different covered active duty or call to covered active-duty status of the same or a different military member.

When leave is taken to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness, the company may require employees to obtain certifications completed by an authorized health care provider of the covered servicemember. In addition, and in accordance with the FMLA regulations, the company may request that the certification submitted by employees set forth additional information provided by the employee and/or the covered servicemember confirming entitlement to such leave.

J. Substitute Paid Leave for Unpaid FMLA Leave

Employees must use any accrued paid time while taking unpaid FMLA leave.

The substitution of paid time for unpaid FMLA leave time does not extend the length of FMLA leave and the paid time will run concurrently with the employee's FMLA entitlement.

Leaves of absence taken in connection with a disability leave plan or workers' compensation injury/illness shall run concurrently with any FMLA leave   entitlement.

K. Pay employee’s Share of Health Insurance Premiums

During FMLA leave, employees are entitled to continued group health plan coverage under the same conditions as if they had continued to work. Unless the company notifies employees of other arrangements, whenever employees are receiving pay from the company during FMLA leave, the company will deduct the employee portion of the group health plan premium from the employee's paycheck in the same manner as if the employee was actively working.

If an employee is receiving no pay or insufficient pay during FMLA leave to cover the cost of their share of health care premiums, employees must pay their portion to the group health premium through a method determined by the Company upon leave.

The company's obligation to maintain health care coverage ceases if the employee's premium payment is more than 30 days late. If the employee's payment is more than 15 days late, the company will notify the employee that coverage will be dropped on a specified date unless the employee’s contribution is received before that date. If an employee does not return to work within 30 calendar days at the end of the leave period (unless employee cannot return to work because of a serious health condition or other circumstances beyond their control), they will be required to reimburse the company for the cost of the premiums the company paid for maintaining coverage during their FMLA leave.

IV.  Exemption for Highly Compensated Employees

The company may choose not to return highly compensated employees (highest paid 10% of employees at a worksite or within 75 miles of that worksite) to their former or equivalent positions following a leave if restoration of employment will cause substantial economic injury to the company. (This fact-specific determination will be made by the company on a case-by-case basis.) Bethel will notify employees if they qualify as a "highly compensated", if the company intends to deny reinstatement, and of the employee's rights in such instances.

V.  Questions and/or Complaints about FMLA Leave

If you have questions regarding this FMLA policy, please contact your business partner in OPC. Bethel is committed to complying with the FMLA and, whenever necessary, shall interpret and apply this policy in a manner consistent with the FMLA.

The FMLA makes it unlawful for employers to: 1) interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of any right provided under FMLA; or 2) discharge or discriminate against any person for opposing any practice made unlawful by FMLA or involvement in any proceeding under or relating to FMLA. If employees believe their FMLA rights have been violated, they should contact the CHRO of Bethel  immediately. Bethel will investigate any FMLA complaints and take prompt and appropriate remedial action to address and/or remedy any FMLA violation.

VI. Coordination of FMLA Leave with Other Leave Policies

The FMLA does not affect any federal, state, or local law prohibiting discrimination, or supersede any State or local law that provides greater family or medical leave rights. For additional information concerning leave entitlements and obligations that might arise when FMLA leave is either not available or exhausted, please consult the other leave policies in this handbook which apply in your jurisdiction.

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