Lessons in employee leave

One of the most confounding areas of employment law relates to employee leave. Who is entitled to leave? Under what circumstances? Can you hire a replacement for an employee, or do you have to protect or hold open an employee's job during the leave?

Although the issues are seemingly complex and confusing at first, it is important you understand them. You then can answer the questions with confidence by taking a step-by-step approach to considering and administering each leave according to applicable laws and with regard to any applicable company policies and practices.

In this article, we will discuss the steps you should take to analyze a leave request under federal law. However, most federal laws have state and local counterparts that mirror federal provisions but often expand the reach of such provisions or apply different eligibility or definitional requirements. What law applies depends on the state. Although the framework we will discuss can be applied to leave issues arising under any law, it is critical in every situation to consult legal counsel or a human-resources professional to determine how state and local laws may alter or expand your considerations.

Following FMLA