FMLA and remote employees

Q: I have worked for a Boston-based company for several years. I
live in western Mass and have lived here for over 10 years. I never
considered it a big deal. However, now I am applying for a Family and
Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave, which I desperately need. My HR Manager
is saying that I am not eligible because I work more than 75 miles away
from our main office in Boston and my work site has fewer than 50
employees. I work from a home office. I don’t get it. I never thought I
would be stripped of benefits just because I work at home.

A: Let’s review the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Most
employers, with over 50 employees, are required to offer FMLA to
eligible employees. What makes an employee eligible?

– An employee has to have worked for 12 months for that employer,

– An employee has to have worked 1250 hours in the previous 12 months before the leave begins, and

– An employee has to work at a site with at least 50 other employees, within 75 miles.

Your HR Manager may be getting stuck on the third requirement. More
and more of us are working remotely. Well, thankfully, the FMLA has
shared some guidance on this third requirement as it relates to
employees working from a home office. An employee’s personal residence
is not a worksite. For employees who work at home, their worksite is the
office to which they report and from which assignments are made. [29
CFR 825.111(a)(2)] In short, this means you should consider the Boston
office your worksite for FMLA purposes, assuming you report into that
office and receive work from the office.  If the Boston office has fewer
than 50 employees, you may still be out of luck.  If they have 50 or
more employees, you have a strong argument.

Share this information with your HR Manager. It may be a detail of
the law which is unfamiliar to your HR Manager. Thankfully there is
guidance available.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.