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Teachers, like any other employees eligible for FMLA leave, are typically entitled to up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave in a 12-month period.  Employers can choose the method for counting the 12-month period within which the 12-weeks of leave may occur (e.g., fiscal year, calendar year, a rolling method), and the method used can have a significant impact on when leave can be taken.  Keep in mind that FMLA leave generally cannot be “split” or “carried over” from one 12-month period to another.

Knowing your applicable FMLA year is important, especially when dealing with school vacations.  An employee may only use FMLA leave when the employee would otherwise be working.  For example, the period during the summer vacation when the employee would not have been required to work is not counted against the employee’s twelve weeks of FMLA leave. There are also specific FMLA rules for “instructional employees” of public and private elementary and secondary schools whose principal function is to teach and instruct students in a class, small group, or individual setting. The purpose of these rules is to help avoid the disruption to the educational process that can result when instructional employees take leave and would otherwise return shortly before the end of the school term.  For example, where an employee plans two weeks of leave to care for a family member and that leave begins three weeks before the end of the semester, the employer could potentially require the employee to stay out on leave until the end of the semester.

Intermittent leave often comes up in the context of a parent returning to work after the birth or adoption of a child.  Generally, leave may not be taken intermittently except in certain situations, such as when medically necessary or if the employer and employee agree to such intermittent leave (e.g., a teacher desires to take off 2 days a week rather than a full week). The employer and employee should also be aware that FMLA leave for a birth cannot be taken more than twelve months after the date of the birth, and birth and bonding leave must typically be taken as a continuous block of leave (there are exceptions to this; e.g., the employer agrees to allow intermittent leave).

*The information herein is a general synopsis of FMLA leave.  Numerous circumstances could change the situation discussed herein, including but not limited to serious health conditions, military service, and two spouses working for the same entity.  This information is intended for general information only and not legal advice.  For further information or counseling on FMLA issues, please contact the employment law attorneys at Hirst Applegate, LLP.