While productivity for U.S. companies is important, efforts have been made in recent decades to also enforce the importance of workers having time to properly address their own medical issues or that of family members. One of the most important laws established to protect this time for workers is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Unfortunately, many workers in the U.S. have faced retaliation for taking the time away from work that they are federally granted to meet the needs of their families. Here is a look at FMLA, who is eligible for leave under the act, and common ways that employers retaliate against workers. If you believe you have been retaliated against by your employer for taking FMLA leave, an experienced business attorney from Perkins Asbill, a Professional Law Corporation can help you understand your options for resolving your claim.
What Is FMLA?
FMLA is a federal law that was put in place in 1993 and has been updated a number of times since its inception. The act was intended to balance the needs of a workplace with the needs of families, and requires employers to provide their employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave a year for qualifying conditions, such as:
The birth of a child and a period of bonding between the parent and newborn.
The placement of an adoption or foster child with the worker and a period of bonding between the worker and that child.
Time spent caring for an immediate family member who is suffering an injury or illness. Qualifying immediate family members include spouses, children, or parents. However, FMLA does not consider a worker’s in-laws to be immediate family members for eligibility purposes.
Time needed for the employee to recover from a serious health condition that prevents him or her from working.
Qualifying issues that arise as a result of an employee’s spouse, child, or parent’s covered active duty status as a member of the National Guard, Reserves, or active duty military service.
In addition, employees can take up to 26 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in order to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness. Employees wishing to take FMLA leave must — if reasonably possible — provide their employer with at least 30 days notice
While the act only requires the employer to receive job-protected, unpaid leave, the employee may elect or the employer can require the employee to use accrued paid vacation time or personal or family sick leave for a portion, or all, of the employee’s family leave time. Employers can require employees who are taking leave under FMLA to produce a medical certification from their doctor of a serious health condition that has been suffered by the employee or his or her family member.
Your 12 weeks of FMLA leave can be taken all in one chunk of time, or you can break the time up into shorter intervals and work intermittently. Employers are barred from making it harder for you to provide intermittent services.
Who Is Covered by FMLA?
If one of the following conditions applies to you, then you are covered by FMLA:
You are an employee of a public agency. Public agencies include those provided by the local, state, or federal government as well as the employees of local school districts; OR
You work for a private company that employs more than 50 people for at least 20 work weeks a year.
In order to qualify for leave under FMLA, you also must meet the following criteria:
You must have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to the start of leave.
You must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months. These 12 months do not have to be consecutive and generally, employment during the past 7 years is considered. Additional time can be considered in situations involving a break in employment due to military service or employment that is governed by a collective bargaining or other written agreement.
How Employers Retaliate Against Workers for Taking FMLA Leave
There are a number of different ways employers retaliate against an employee who takes FMLA, particularly those who choose to take their leave in more than one time period, leaving them intermittently working or on leave. Common retaliatory actions by employers include:
Refusing to authorize FMLA for an eligible employee who has a qualifying reason for taking leave.
Discouraging an employee from using FMLA leave that he or she is qualified for.
Terminating an employee for taking FMLA.
Overloading an intermittent worker with more tasks than he or she can accomplish during working hours.
Demoting an employee while he or she is on FMLA leave.
Decreasing the pay for a full-time employee to part-time pay as a result of that employee taking FMLA leave.
Placing the employee in a new position that features lower pay.
Removing the employee from consideration for a promotion for which he or she is qualified.
Counting FMLA leave in “no-fault” attendance policies.
Removing the employee from important projects because he or she was on leave, or requiring the employee to perform new tasks that were not part of his or her job before leave was taken.
How Perkins Asbill, a Professional Law Corporation Can Help
The FMLA prohibits employers from interfering with, restraining, or denying the exercise of or attempt to exercise an employee’s right to unpaid leave under the act. In many cases, an employer who has been retaliated against will be permitted to seek the recovery of lost wages and other benefits that resulted from the retaliation. The experienced attorneys from Perkins Asbill, a Professional Law Corporation can provide services to assist you, including helping you to determine if there was a violation of the employer’s FMLA requirements, gathering the evidence you need to prove your claim, and the court process involved in filing an FMLA case against your employer. For a free case evaluation, contact us online or by calling 916-446-2000.