Saving FMLA Time Off

Dear HR:

I work at a company with 300 employees and I have a surgery coming up and I don’t want to use FMLA time. I am going to try to use my accrued vacation time and then use unpaid time off when I run out of vacation time. I want to hold off using FMLA time for later this year because I am anticipating needing to be out again due to another surgery. Is this acceptable?

Dear FMLA Employee:

Once your employer becomes aware of your need to take possible FMLA leave, the employer is required to provide you with FMLA Notification and your Rights under FMLA. Once you are out on leave, your time off will be counted as time off under FMLA. So if you take off 3 weeks now and 15 weeks later this year, only 12 weeks of your time off is “job protected.” Of course there are other factors to consider when discussing “job protection.” But to ensure we answer your question, specifically, you do not get to decide if you will take FMLA or not. Once your employer becomes aware of your possible need for leave, FMLA leave, the time off is tracked against the 12 weeks of FMLA job protection.