The reason that employees need to take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is that they need time to deal with either a personal health situation or they need to care for an ailing child, spouse or parent.
The FMLA provides for up to 12 weeks of protected unpaid leave so that employees can take the time they need without having to worry about putting their job at risk.
FMLA leave covers a variety of issues including dealing with a chronic condition, recovering from surgery, being hospitalized or bonding with a newborn or newly adopted child.
It also covers the care of an injured member of the military. You may choose to utilize your leave in one lump period of time, or you might take it as needed, depending on your situation.
You may need six weeks to recover from back surgery, or you might need three days off every three weeks for chemotherapy. The amount of time spent on FMLA leave is determined by a healthcare provider, and the only time that the approved amount of time can change is when you recover faster than expected or when you need more time, so long as it is within the 12-week time period.
By definition, the very reason employees need FMLA leave is due to an already stressful situation. Imagine how difficult it can be when an issue arises at work because you have asked to take FMLA leave or because you have taken it.
You do not need the additional stress in your life. If you suspect that your rights under the FMLA have been violated, then you might be able to file a claim against your employer and you should speak with an employment attorney immediately.
Reasons Why You May Need an FMLA Attorney
FMLA violations happen all the time. In some cases an employer might not understand the rules governing FMLA leave, while in other cases they choose to ignore them.
Some common FMLA violations include:
- Being discouraged from taking leave: So long as you are a qualifying employee, you are entitled to take FMLA leave. Your employer cannot discourage you or try to pressure you from utilizing your leave. It doesn’t matter if your company is in the middle of its busy season or if there are open positions. If you ask for it, you are entitled to take it.
- If your employer requires more than 30 days notice: In general, you are required to provide as much notice about taking FMLA leave as you possibly can. If you or a loved one is having surgery, or if you are having a baby, then you can often provide at least 30 days notice. However, there are situations when you might not be able to provide that much leave. You could be in a car accident, or your father could have a fall and break his hip. In these cases, you provide as much notice as you possibly can and your employer cannot penalize you for giving less than 30 days notice.
- Your employer does not believe you are eligible for FMLA leave: Qualifying employees must have worked for their employers for at least 12 months (they do not have to be consecutive, in the case of seasonal workers) and complete 1250 hours in the last 12 months. The employer must also have 50 workers in a 75-mile radius of the worksite. If these conditions are met, then the employee qualifies for FMLA leave. If your employer is trying to say that you don’t qualify, then you need to speak with Human Resources and if you get no results there, then you should consult with an employment attorney.
- Your employer cuts your insurance benefits: While taking FMLA leave you are entitled to keep your insurance benefits. You might be required to pay your regular contribution, but your coverage cannot be revoked because you are on leave.
- Your boss pressures you to return: Depending on your relationship with your employer, you might receive calls from coworkers or supervisors while you are on leave to see how you are doing. This would be at your discretion. If it seems like your supervisor is calling to see if you can return sooner than planned, this would be a violation.
If you have experienced any of these situations while taking FMLA leave, then you should contact an employment lawyer immediately.
Why You Should Hire An Attorney
If you have experienced an FMLA violation, you have two options. You can either file a complaint against your employer through the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, or you can file a private lawsuit.
An employment attorney can evaluate your case and determine which option will yield the greatest result. The benefit of working with an expert in employment law is that you can rest assured that he or she will handle every aspect of your case with care. They know what evidence you need and when and where to submit it.
Your employment attorney will know what remedies might be available to you, including emotional distress, legal fees, out of pocket expenses, lost wages and any other associated costs in your case. Depending on your situation, you might even be granted FMLA leave that you were denied.
Having an FMLA expert on your case will help to put your mind at ease in an already stressful situation.
How An Employment Lawyer Can Help
Though hiring an employment attorney does not guarantee that you will win your case against your employer, it will greatly increase the odds of a favorable outcome if you have an expert working on your behalf.
In general, you can meet with an employment lawyer for an initial consultation and from there your options will be explained to you.
The initial consultation is usually free or done at a reduced fee. When it comes to legal fees themselves, more employment lawyers will work on a contingency basis, meaning that they will not require payment in advance and you will only pay if you win your case. That way you have nothing to lose by hiring an attorney to help with your case.
For more information about how an employment lawyer can help with your case, fill out a free case evaluation form.