What Are Employees' Rights Under FMLA in USPS?

United States Postal Service employees are designated as federal workers and protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act
United States Postal Service employees are designated as federal workers and protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act (Image: Siri Stafford/Lifesize/Getty Images)

United States Postal Service employees are considered employees of the U.S. federal government. As a branch of the federal government, these employees, if qualified, are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) established in 1993 by the President Bill Clinton administration. Their benefits and leaves are regulated by contract negotiation with the National Association of Letter Carriers, which includes provisions providing for FMLA coverage.

FMLA Basics

USPS employees, like all covered employees, must be eligible in order to be approved for FMLA leave. Assuming an employee has a qualifying condition under the act, he may only be approved if he has worked a minimum of 1,250 hours within the past 12 months. This minimum hour requirement is roughly the equivalent of 24 hours per week, thus some part-time employees also may be considered eligible for FMLA if they have a qualifying condition.

Family Leave

FMLA is made up of two actual types of leave: family leave and medical leave. If a USPS employee applies for family leave, she is applying for the birth or care of a newborn, the adoption of a child, or care of a foster child. Both men and women are eligible to apply for family leave under the FMLA. Twelve weeks of unpaid leave are provided for the aforementioned family care. In addition, family and medical leave can be designated for the care of a parent, spouse or child with a serious health condition.

Medical Leave

USPS employees applying for FMLA for medical reasons must have a qualifying condition for approval. FMLA covers serious or chronic health conditions including incapacitation due to a stay in a hospital, hospice or other residential medical facility. Chronic conditions that require ongoing treatment, such as kidney failure, diabetes and asthma, also are covered. Any illness that incapacitates the employee for three or more days and requires treatment by a health-care provider also is covered under the FMLA. These definitions of serious illness also apply if an employee has requested leave for the care of a close family member. In those cases, the family member also must have a qualifying illness as defined previously.

Special Active-Duty Military Provisions

In 2008, The National Defense Authority Act proposed new FMLA entitlements for members of the military. These changes were approved and updated in January of 2009. The amendment covers two types of leave for military members; “qualifying exigency leave” and " military caregiver leave." The amendment covers certain retired military and members of the National Guard or Reserves. USPS employees who are members of the National Guard or Reserves would be covered under the amendment provided they have a qualifying condition. Members of the Regular Armed Forces are not covered by this FMLA amendment. The changes include an extension of leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for qualifying situations. Like the original FMLA, this leave is unpaid.

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