You never know when you might be called away from work to care for a sick family member. You might become incapacitated after a major accident or need an extended amount of time off after a surgery. When you need time off from work the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid continuous or sporadic leave. What’s more is that your job and benefits are protected while you are taking the leave.
Not all employers are covered by FMLA guidelines and not all employees qualify to take it. Employers who have over 50 employees are generally covered by the FMLA, along with all local, state and federal governmental employees as well as elementary and secondary school employees.
Employees must have worked a minimum of 12 months at their current employer with 1250 hours completed in the past year. The employee must also work at a location with 50 employees in a 75-mile radius of the workplace. If all of these criteria are met then the employee should qualify for FMLA leave.
In some cases, there can be confusion about whether an employee qualifies for FMLA leave. There are also situations where employers try to convince employees to not take FMLA leave or try to threaten the employee with termination or retaliation for using FMLA leave. If this has happened to you, then you might need to contact an employment law attorney about your rights under FMLA guidelines.
When Is An Employer In Violation of the FMLA?
If an employer is covered by the FMLA then the employer is obligated to follow the guidelines set forth by the law when a qualifying employee requests leave.
Here are some of the ways that employers can violate FMLA guidelines:
- Terminating an employee who has taken FMLA leave, either during the leave or upon his or her return
- Engaging in retaliation against an employee who has taken FMLA leave, requested FMLA leave or who has filed a complaint over FMLA rights
- Revealing confidential medical information
- Eliminating benefits
- Changing job responsibilities while an employee is on leave
- Denying a promotion because you took FMLA leave
- Failing to grant FMLA leave to a qualified employee with a valid reason for requesting FMLA leave for any reason
When you approach your employer, the employer is not able to ask you to reconsider your request or deny your request because it causes an undue inconvenience for the company. While you are required to provide 30 days notice ahead of planned leaves, such as a surgery or pregnancy, there are situations like catastrophic car accidents or cancer diagnoses that are unplanned and do not allow for advanced notice. In those situations you must provide notice as soon as possible, and your employer must work with you.
It is always best to file a complaint as soon as possible. If you suspect that you have been wrongfully denied FMLA leave or have been the victim of retaliation or termination, you should file a claim with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division or file a private lawsuit against your employer.
When it comes to time limits, you have two years from the date of the alleged violation to file a complaint. If you can prove that your employer willfully violated the terms of FMLA guidelines then you might have up to three years to file your claim.
It is advantageous to file your claim right away so that you will be able to have all of the relevant parties available (supervisors, owners, coworkers who can corroborate your claim, etc). However, you might still be dealing with a medical issue that will prevent you from filing right away, so make sure you file as soon as you possibly can.
Speaking With an Employment Law Attorney
In many cases FMLA disputes between employees and employers stem from misunderstandings and a lack of clarity about the guidelines. However, there are situations that call for complaints to be filed in order for employees to receive the benefits they are due. If you have been the victim of an FMLA violation, you could be entitled to damages and remedies including the reinstatement of your position, lost wages and the return of any benefits lost.
Hiring an employment law attorney will not guarantee that you will win your case but it will certainly increase the odds of success. An employment law attorney understands the documentation and evidence needed to file a successful claim and he or she will help you navigate the process.
Most employment law attorneys will work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you will not need to pay unless you win your case.
If you have been the victim of an FMLA violation, complete the free case evaluation form to learn more about how an employment law attorney might be able to help you.