Are Remote Employees Entitled to FMLA Leave in Arizona?

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Remote employees are entitled to FMLA leave only if they meet certain requirements.

What Is FMLA Leave?

The Family Medical Leave Act entitles eligible employees to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for qualifying medical reasons, including the employee seeking medical care for his or her own health condition or to care for an ill spouse, child, or parent. While an employee is on FMLA leave, the employer must continue providing benefits it provided the employee before taking leaving, including group health benefits. Subject to few limitations, an employer is required to restore an employee who returns from FMLA leave to the same job or to an “equivalent job.” Employers are also precluded from discriminating and/or retaliating against employees for taking FMLA leave.  

Who Qualifies for FMLA Leave?

An employee is eligible for FMLA leave if:

  1. The employee has worked for the employer for 12 months;
  2. The employee has worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of FMLA leave; and
  3. The employer employs 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of the employee’s worksite. 

Where Is a Remote Employee’s Worksite for Purposes of the FMLA?

The same eligibility requirements for taking FMLA leave apply to all employees regardless of whether they work in the office or remotely. Although remote employees often work from home, a home office is not an employee’s “worksite” for purposes of the FMLA. An employee’s worksite is the location of the office to which the employee reports and receives his or her work. Thus, a remote employee residing in Arizona, but reporting to a California office is considered to work in California for purposes of the FMLA. That employee would be eligible for FMLA leave if the California office he or she reports to has 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius, the employee has worked for the company for at least 12 months, and he or she has worked at least 1,250 hours during the prior 12 months.

What if the Employer Has No Office?

As more companies shift towards remote work, some have abandoned the use of brick and mortar offices altogether. The FMLA was enacted in 1993, a time when many jobs simply could not be performed remotely, and Congress likely did not envision the modern teleworking landscape many employees have now become accustomed to when drafting the FMLA. To date, no court has weighed in on whether employees who have no worksite, as defined under the FMLA, may still qualify for FMLA leave. Thus, the answer is unclear.

Consult with an Attorney

Employees and employers with questions about their rights and/or obligations under the FMLA should consult with an experienced employment law attorney. As more companies shift towards remote work, the legal landscape surrounding the FMLA may shift with them. Administrative bodies often provide updated guidance on the FMLA, and an experienced attorney will keep clients up to date on new developments.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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