Medical Leave

Comparing Leave Laws

There are various leave laws that provide time off to take care of yourself or a family member for medical reasons. An employee may be eligible for more than one provision below.  Human Resources will ensure a thorough review of all provisions for each employee that has provided notice of a need for leave.

Law Eligibility Qualifying Events and Time Allowed Impact of leave on benefits

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Employees are eligible for leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act if they have:

  • Worked for the state for at least 12 months from the date the FMLA leave is to commence
  • Worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 month period preceding the first day of FMLA leave (not including paid leave time),
  • A qualifying event.

FMLA eligible employees may request:

Up to 12 workweeks (or 480 hours) of leave in a 12-month period:

  • For the birth and care of a newborn, or for placement of a child for adoption or foster care
  • To take medical leave when unable to work because of their own serious health condition
  • To care for an eligible covered family member with a serious health condition
  • For a qualifying exigency arising out of a covered family member’s active military duty or has been notified of pending call to active duty in the Armed Forces in support of a contingency operation

Up to 26 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period:

  • To care for a covered service member recovering from a serious illness or injury incurred in the line of duty.  This provision includes a combined total of up to 26 weeks of all types of FMLA leave.

The 12 weeks of leave can be taken as full-time leave, part-time leave, and intermittently.

While an employee is on an approved FMLA eligible leave of absence, Western will continue to pay for the employer portion of an employee’s health insurance premiums (regardless if the leave is unpaid) under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had continued to work.  Employees are always responsible for payment of their portion of their health insurance premiums during an FMLA approved leave.

Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML)

The Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program is a statewide insurance program that provides paid family and medical leave, administered by Employment Security. Employees may be eligible for paid leave if they have worked 820 hours in Washington during the last year and experienced a qualifying event. Employees are eligible for job protection if they have worked for the state for 12 months and 1,250 hours in the year before taking the first day of leave.

Employees may take leave to:

  • Bond with a new child for up to 12 weeks
  • Give birth to a baby for up to 16 weeks and up to 18 weeks if there are complications in pregnancy
  • Due to a serious injury or illness or to take care of a family member with a serious medical need. Employees may be eligible for up to 16 weeks of paid leave for a personal medical even and family caregiving event in the same year.

Leave does not have to be used at once, but must be used within one year after leave starts. When using paid leave, at least 8 hours must be taken off in a row.

Employees that are approved for FMLA concurrently, will continue to maintain benefit protection. Western will continue to pay the employer portion and employees are responsible for payment of their portion of health insurance premiums during approved leave.

Washington Family Care Act

Employees are eligible for leave under the state Family Care Act if they have:

  • Available accrued leave and
  • A qualifying event.

Employees may request to take a leave of absence to care for:

Leave protections are provided to the extent of the employee’s accruals.  Use of leave must comply with the terms of applicable collective bargaining agreements, employee handbook policy except for any terms related to the choice and order of leave to be used.

Benefits will not be impacted for employees taking approved leave under this provision.

Pregnancy Disability Leave

Pregnant employees are eligible under the Washington State Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) when disabled (prohibited to work by their physician) during pregnancy or following the birth of their child. Pregnant employees may request leave for the period of time that they are sick or temporarily disabled because of pregnancy or childbirth.  Leave time is typically 6-8 weeks of leave as determined by healthcare provider based on individual’s condition.  This leave time is provided in addition to the leave time the employee may be eligible for under the Washington Family Leave Act for baby bonding. This provision does not provide employer benefit coverage.  Whether or not benefits status remain the same during such leave, depends on the employee’s pay status during the leave and applicable contract/handbook provisions.

ADA – Reasonable Accommodation Leave

Employees may be eligible for leave if the:

  • Employee’s condition meets the federal and state definition of disability, and
  • The employee is not eligible for or has exhausted leave under other available provisions
Employees may be grated leave under this provision for their own condition if it meets the definition of “disability” under state or federal law.  Leave may be granted as an accommodation when an employee is not eligible for leave protections under state and federal leave laws, collective bargaining unit agreements, or employee handbook provisions.  The amount of leave granted is determined on a case-by-case basis. This provision does not provide employer benefit coverage.  Whether or not benefits status remain the same during such leave, depends on the employee’s pay status during the leave and applicable contract/handbook provisions.


How to Request Family or Medical Leave

1. Provide notice to supervisor and Human Resources of need for leave.

  • Employees must provide at least 30-days advance notice of their need for leave when the need is foreseeable and when notice is practicable
  • The notice may be verbal or in writing.

2. Provide medical certification completed by a health care provider.

  • Employees requesting leave for their own, or a family member’s serious health condition are required to submit a medical certification to Human Resources.  Only the physician or health care practitioner is to complete the medical certification.
  • If supervisors or other department representatives receive any medical documentation, it is to be forwarded to Human Resources and copies are not to be made.

3. Submit a Leave Request Form to Human Resources

  • Do not include confidential medical information (e.g. diagnosis of condition) on the Leave Request form; note only that “the need for leave is due to a health condition”.  To protect confidentiality, the employee will submit medical information to Human Resources when requested.

Before Returning to Work

If employees are out due to their own serious health condition, they are required to provide Human Resources a Medical Release from their health care practitioner prior to returning to work.

When the leave is due to an approved worker’s compensation injury, the release to work needs to be approved and coordinated by the Workers’ Comp Claims Manager.

Stay at Work/Return to Work Assistance

Western is focused on helping employees stay at work or make the transition back to work when injury or illness disrupts their lives.

If this affects you, here are some tools available to you:

 For health & wellness: For work injuries and ergonomics: For disability related conditions:
  • Exercise classes
  • Nutrition
  • Healthy work/life balance

Contact Darcie Hill

  • Ergonomic assessments
  • Transitional return to work
  • Navigate L&I system

Contact Bruce Boyer

  • Workplace accommodations
  • Leave of absence

Contact Lisa Hill
Leaves & Medical Accommodations Administrator



Applicable Federal and State Laws