The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for their own medical needs or so that they can help care for a child, spouse or parent who is suffering from a medical condition.
To qualify for FMLA leave an employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, with 1250 hours of work completed in those 12 months. Employees must also work in a location with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius. If all of those criteria have been met, then the employee should qualify for FMLA leave.
Private employers with more than 50 employees should be covered under the FMLA guidelines. All local, state and federal governmental agencies are automatically covered, along with elementary and secondary school employees no matter the size of the staff.
There are many protections in place so that employees can take the time off they need without having to worry about losing their jobs or benefits. Employers cannot ask employees to delay taking FMLA leave or deny the leave because it is not convenient for them.
While on FMLA leave you are still entitled to receive benefits but it is important to understand how the process works so that you do not lose any benefits that you are entitled to, just as it is important to ensure that you are not the victim of retaliation.
Do I Still Have Insurance During FMLA Leave?
Under the FMLA guidelines, you should still receive health insurance benefits while on FMLA leave just as you would as if you were still at work. If you make regular employee contributions to your health care then you will be required to make those payments while on leave, even though FMLA leave is unpaid.
When you return to work you are entitled to return to the position you held before you left, or to an equivalent position if your previous position is no longer available. In essence, when you return from leave it should be as if you never left. When an employer tries to change your benefits as a result of asking for or taking FMLA leave, then you might need to file a claim to protect your rights.
What if My Insurance Was Cut Off?
If your health insurance was cut off during FMLA leave and your employer will not grant it to you, you should consider filing a claim against your employer. The FMLA guidelines clearly protect your ability to receive health insurance and other benefits while on leave without the fear of losing them.
As the victim of a FMLA violation that resulted in the loss of your health insurance benefits, you have two options: You can file a claim with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) or you can file a private lawsuit against your employer. Both options are complicated and require lots of documentation and evidence to support the claim, but both options can lead to the same remedies. There is a two year window to file a claim under the statute of limitations unless you can prove that your employer intentionally violated the FMLA terms, in which case you will have three years to file a claim.
Filing a claim can help you reclaim your health insurance benefits as well as to reinstate any other benefits that were lost as a result of your FMLA leave.
How A Lawyer Can Help
If you find yourself at the point where you need to file a claim, you should consider hiring an employment law attorney. While hiring an employment law attorney does not guarantee that you will win your claim, it will greatly increase the odds of your success.
Filing an FMLA claim would be challenging enough under any circumstances, but if you are still dealing with a medical situation - either for yourself or a loved one - then the last thing you need is to worry about filing a claim and dealing with the stress of it all. An attorney will help to guide you through along the path with all of the supporting documentation needed to achieve the best possible outcome. That’s where hiring an FMLA lawyer can help.
Not only does an FMLA attorney understand how to navigate the system, he or she will also understand the best way to achieve the best outcomes, including damages and remedies like reinstatement and lost wages as a result of the violation.
Most employment law attorneys work on a contingency basis so that you don’t pay unless you win your case. Complete the free case evaluation form to learn more about how an employment attorney can help you.