According to a recent new release from the US Dept. of Labor, Alaska employers should remember that members of the National Guard and reservists returning to civilian occupations after serving must have their active duty time counted towards their eligibility to take time off work under the federal and state Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
While many people refer to the family leave act as the Alaska FMLA, in reality, it is a federal program. The US Department of Labor recently issued a memorandum that clarifies its position on the rights of returning uniformed service members to family and medical leave under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA.
The federal FMLA provides employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to attend to a variety of critical family situations. These include the birth or adoption of a child, or the placement of a foster child in the home. In addition, employees may take time off to care for a close family member who is ill. This covers only members of the immediate family, including the employee’s parent, child, or spouse. FMLA leave may also be used by the employee to recover from his or her own serious illness or other medical condition.
The FMLA applies to all public agencies, including state, local and federal employers, and local schools, regardless of the number of employees. It also applies to employers with 50 or more employees. Employers with 50 or more employees at least 20 weeks of the year, who are engaged in industry or commerce, are subject to the federal FMLA law.
Under ordinary circumstances, a worker becomes eligible for leave under the FMLA after working for a covered employer for at least 12 months, during which he or she completed at least 1,250 hours of work. This recent report reminds employers they should count the months and hours that reservists or National Guards would have worked if they had not been called up for military service towards FMLA eligibility.
The Alaska FMLA is a law that affects many workers throughout the state of Alaska, and as it will soon be Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, now is a great time to take a new look at this law.
The act is primarily there to protect a worker’s job. A worker is allowed up to 12 weeks of leave a year. This leave is unpaid and can only be taken under certain circumstances. These can include an immediate member of the worker’s family becoming ill and the worker having to take time off work to care for them. It can also include taking leave after the birth of a child, or the placing of a foster child within the worker’s home. As well as these incidents, it can also cover time taken away from the worker’s job to adopt a child.
The law is applicable to private employers with employees numbering 50 or more. Public employees and school teachers are covered automatically. This does not depend on the number of employees in the size of staff.
There is a poster available that explains this act in full and it is desirable that it should be displayed on jobsites throughout the state of Alaska.
However, workers should be aware that their job is not protected as a matter of course. Because of this, workers must be prepared to take certain steps to make sure that they understand what the position is with their employer.
One recommendation is that employers provide written notice to their employee stating the leave status and directing the worker how and when to contact the workplace to ensure that their position is secure.
Time on active military duty counts as hours worked to qualify for FMLA.
The employee, or worker, must be prepared to heed this advice and follow up the instructions that the employer has given them, make sure that they do not overstep any deadlines and generally should maintain a good relationship with their employer while they are on leave.
Alaska, known as The Last Frontier, observes the usual federal holidays familiar to most citizens of the United States such as New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. They also add in Seward’s Day which commemorates the signing of the Alaska Purchase treaty in 1867 which was negotiated with Russia by the then-Secretary of State William H. Seward, as well as Alaska Day honoring the anniversary of the formal transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States following the Alaska Purchase.
The state, however, does not require its employers to pay workers holiday pay. The disbursement of holiday pay depends on the individual employer’s policy and is usually agreed upon between both parties when the worker is hired. If an employer requires its employees to work on a holiday, either federal or an Alaska-specific holiday, the employee may receive straight-time for the hours actually worked plus additional pay according to the employer’s policy on holiday pay. For instance, employees could receive regular pay for working 8 hours plus 8 hours of holiday pay. Additionally, employees are not entitled to overtime pay simply because they worked on an official holiday. Overtime pay is time-and-a-half pay for hours over the basic 40 hour week at 8 hours per day.
There are some exceptions made as to what is considered overtime according to the specific job. Some of these exceptions to the rule include those employers who employ three or fewer people during the course of regular business, various agricultural employees, service employees such as those in fields of medicine, small mining operations, etc. The specific exceptions can be found in Alaska Statutes AS 23.10.055 and AS 23.10.060.