Currently, there is no state law in Nebraska that requires a private employer to provide employee access to sick leave, whether it be paid or unpaid. However, a private employer is legally obligated to provide this employment benefit should it be part of the employment contract or if the benefit is part of the company’s employee benefit plans.
On the other hand, a qualified employer in Nebraska is required to provide its employees with unpaid holiday under the federal law called FMLA or the Family Medical Leave Act. The eligibility requirements are as follows:
- Government agencies
- Private/public elementary and secondary schools
- Employers with more than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius
The eligibility criteria for an employee to take the FMLA leave are as follows:
- Government employee (regardless of the workforce’s size and the employment relationship)
- School employee (regardless of the workforce’s size and the employee category)
- Legally and officially employed in the company for a total of 12 months, regardless of its continuous employment or not
- Must have worked for at least 1,250 hours in the past twelve-month period or since the commencement of employment, both for regular employees and part-time employees
Temporary employees or employees who work at an hourly rate under a qualified employer are also covered by the law, as long as they were able to accrue the necessary hours per month or per year.
Sick and Safe Leave Accrual
As long as the eligible staff meets the conditions listed above, he or she may take either of the two leaves in the Family Medical Leave Act:
- Up to 12 weeks of unpaid time for a serious health condition
- Up to 26 weeks of unpaid time to care for a family member in the military service
Nebraska Sick Leave Law Permitted Uses
An eligible employee may use the Family & Medical Leave if he or a family member is suffering from a serious health condition as defined by the law, regardless of the employment contract.
On the other hand, employees may also use the leave for reasons related to military deployment and/or duty of a military family member.
Serious Health Condition
The benefits for employees can only apply if the employee is eligible to take the leave. He or she is granted leave if the employee or a family member:
- Needs to seek medical attention or treatment in a hospital, hospice, or a residential care facility in the event of illness
- Is unable to conduct physical activities for more than three days, which prevents him or her from going to work or school. This should be under the continuous supervision of a physician
- Is incapacitated due to pregnancy or needs to take care of the child after birth
- Is incapacitated due to epilepsy, diabetes, asthma, or a different chronic health condition
- Is suffering from an illness wherein treatment is ineffective. This includes chronic health care conditions such as Alzheimer’s and stroke
- Needs to seek any type of treatment for a catastrophic illness that prevents the employee from conducting employment duties for more than three days. This includes but is not limited to chemotherapy, physical therapy, and dialysis.
Keep in mind that minor illnesses, such as the common cold, are not considered serious health conditions under the FMLA law. However, if the absence from employment lasts for more than three days because of the illness, he or she may be eligible for the leave.
There are two main clauses related to family military leave included in the Family Medical Leave Act. The employee is eligible to take the leave under the following qualifications:
- The employee needs to handle certain needs of a family member who’s currently in active military service or is coming out of it
- The employee needs to provide extensive care to a family member who suffered an injury while in active military service in the armed forces
Family Member Defined
Under the Family Medical Leave Act, an employee’s family member is defined as any of the following:
- Spouse – Wife, husband, or partner in same-sex marriages in states where it’s legal
- Son/daughter – Biological, stepchild, foster child, child through adoption, or a child of an in loco parentis
- Parent – Biological, stepfather/stepmother, foster parent, adoptive parent
Note that grandparents, siblings, in-laws, and other members of the extended family are not covered by the law unless the said family member stands as in loco parentis. Official beneficiaries of the employee may also be considered family members under the FMLA law.
Payment for Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Upon Separation from Employment
The Nebraska Supreme Court issued a ruling under Nebraska’s Wage Payment and Collection Act. The law states that:
If an employer provides full-time and part-time employees with paid time off, whether it be vacation time, sick leave, and other leaves, the employer must pay the regular rate of payment for the unused vacation or sick leaves upon the termination of employment or at the time of retirement.
This is as long as the employee earned the hours that make him or her eligible for the leave. The employee must also be able to comply with the normal retirement requirements.
The sick leave benefit remains absolute and disregards any prior policy in the company’s employee manual or other employment laws that state the non-obligation of the employer to pay for accrued PTO at the time of separation of employment.
Employee Notice of Use Requirements
An employee who wishes to use the FMLA leave must provide 14 days of notice to the employer. However, if the leave is to be taken immediately because of an unexpected and urgent medical condition, the requirement for advance notice is nullified.
Aside from advance notice, no evidence of illness, such as a doctor’s note or an agency head approval, shall be required by an employer to grant the FMLA leave.
Filing a Complaint, Complaint Procedure, and Penalties
Employees on Family & Medical Leave are protected against retaliation, discrimination, salary deduction, and termination of employment.
If the employer fails to follow the policies under federal law or fails to grant the sick leave benefit indicated in a previous agreement, the employee may file a complaint to the Wage and Hour Division of the US Department of Labor.
However, keep in mind that the complaint must be filed within two years after the violation of employee rights or contract of service. Otherwise, the complaint will be nullified.