The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave for qualifying employees who need to take time off to care for their own personal medical conditions as well as those of a parent, a child or a spouse.
An employer is covered under the FMLA if they meet certain guidelines, which generally means there are at least 50 employees in a private company, if the employer is an elementary or secondary school, or if the employer is a local, state or federal governmental agency.
If these conditions are met, then the employer is required to abide by federal FMLA guidelines.
When you request FMLA leave, your employer cannot try to convince you not to take leave, suggest that your job is at risk, or deny you leave.
Additionally, you cannot face retaliation as a result of taking leave, including loss of job, loss of benefits, or changes to your position as a result of taking leave.
If you have experienced any of these situations after requesting FMLA leave, then you might have an FMLA claim.
Steps To File An FMLA Claim
You have two options when filing an FMLA complaint: You can either file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor, or you can file a private lawsuit.
When you file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor, your complaint can be submitted to the Wage and Hour Division either in person, by mail or by telephone.
There are WHD branches in every major city. When filing your claim, make sure that you have all of the information needed to assert that a violation has occurred.
You will need to provide names of the people involved, dates the incidents occurred and details about the events themselves.
You can also choose to file a private lawsuit against your employer, and hiring an employment law attorney is critical in this process so that you have someone advocating on your behalf. Your attorney can help to gather all necessary information about your case and submit it according to court guidelines.
It is important to note that your FMLA claim should be filed as soon as a violation has been determined.
There is a statute of limitations that limit you to file within two years after a violation has occurred, or three years if the court determines the violation was willful. If you are a state employee you may be limited in terms of what action you can take against your employer in a private lawsuit.
In all of these cases, hiring an experienced employment law attorney can help you to determine how to proceed with your claim.
What Types Of Remedies Can Be Included?
When it comes to remedies, a great deal depends on the nature of your complaint and whether retaliation was involved.
If you have been denied FMLA leave by your employer, then your main remedy will likely be to have that leave awarded so that you can care for your personal medical needs or the needs of your family member.
You may have lost wages and benefits, including health care benefits, as a result of the violation.
You can ask for these to be reinstated as part of your complaint, and you can also request legal fees, associated costs and fees for dealing with your complaint as well as compensation for emotional distress you have suffered.
Much of your claim will revolve around proof that you are qualified to receive FMLA benefits and that you were denied your request.
If retaliation occurred because you requested FMLA leave or because you were gone on FMLA leave, then you need to demonstrate how and when the retaliation occurred.
No matter the size and scope of your complaint, hiring an employment law attorney can help you to ensure that you receive all of the benefits to which you are entitled, as well as recouping any losses you have suffered.
Getting Help From An Employment Law Attorney
If you plan to file an FMLA claim against your employer you need to act quickly. The sooner you take action, the sooner you can focus on taking your leave or getting back to work if you have lost your job after returning from FMLA leave.
An employment law attorney can help you to determine what steps need to be taken for your maximum benefit.
Not only can an attorney help you to get the FMLA leave you were denied, but he can also help you to get your job back or to receive any lost wages or benefits, in addition to other financial damages like associated fees and costs and even emotional distress.
Most employment law attorneys will take your case without charging a fee upfront, and you will only be required to pay if you win your case.
While there is no guarantee that hiring an employment law attorney will win your case, the chances for success improve greatly when you have an expert working on your behalf.