Family and Medical Leave Act: Hurricane Victims' Eligibility


Since Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit the southeastern U.S, many people were either displaced or injured, which has forced many to miss work. One of the top questions many employees have post-hurricane or natural disasters is if they’re eligible for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave. FMLA can be a complicated act to understand with varying requirements depending on what kind of injury or illness is happening.

The answer is multi-faceted and dependent on circumstances. There are many criteria to meet the ability to be granted FMLA leave. Employers are required to grant leave to employees only if they employ more than 50 employees for each business day for 20 or more calendar weeks in the year. FMLA is an employee benefit that can be incredibly helpful when disaster or injury strikes.

FMLA grants differing amounts of time depending on the illness or injury incurred. The amount of time granted to employees if their employer meets these criteria is up to 12 weeks for a 12-month period. Employees are eligible if they have:

  • been employed for at least a full year.
  • worked at least 1,250 hours during the full year preceding the beginning of your leave.
  • 50 or more employees by their employer within 75 miles of the worksite.

However, the employee does not always have to be the one injured or ill. There are also clauses including family members and circumstances that exist outside of the personal employee.

The reasons for FMLA leave can include:

  • the birth of a child.
  • placement of a child for adoption or foster care.
  • care for the employee’s family member, child, spouse or parent with a serious health condition.
  • serious health condition that renders the employee unable to perform any one of the essential functions of their position.
  • care for a covered service member or veteran with a health condition.

The ability of an employee to leave to clean up after a natural disaster to search for family or contribute to rescue efforts, employers are not required to grant FMLA leave. If schools are closed due to a storm, the employer is also not required to grant paid leave. 

If personal injury occurs due to a storm, the employee who meets the requirements of a serious health condition which renders them unable to perform their job as a result of a natural disaster, they could qualify for FMLA leave.

When it comes to employee benefits and FMLA leave, an employer should gather as much information as possible from the employee to make sure they do or do not qualify. It is up to the employer to establish a flexible agreement that allows the employee to tend to outside matters without fear of termination. Employers who are able to give this amount of caring and flexibility can ensure that their employees will work harder and more loyally to the employer. Check out Ironwood Insurance to get more information on how to protect your company and provide benefits to your employees in their time of need.