Sometimes employees get sick, or their family members get sick. Most employers will understand and make allowances, but sometimes a leave or accommodation that ought to be granted is denied. If you are in this situation, it is a good idea to ensure you understand your rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), as this is the most common law under which leaves and the like are approved or denied. In this article, we’ll discuss FMLA eligibility and regulations to help you better understand your rights.
The FMLA was signed under President Clinton, going into effect in August 1993. The Act allows employees of both federal and private entities to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in any 12-month period (not necessarily a calendar year) for any kind of qualified medical or family-related reason. There are specific factors that are “qualified” for FMLA eligibility, including:
- Personal or family illness
- Military leave in the family
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Adoption or foster care placement
- Caregiving for anyone dealing with a serious illness
In order to be eligible for leave under the FMLA, an employee must have been with their current employer for at least 12 months, and they must have worked at least 1,250 hours over that period. Their employer must also be covered—namely, the company must employ at least 50 employees in a geographical area of less than 75 miles. The significant majority of employees, both public and private, are covered by this requirement, but some employers are exempt from having to abide by the FMLA, even if they would otherwise be required to do so.
FMLA Regulations & Violations
In order to take leave under the FMLA, all an employee has to do is provide their employer sufficient information and notice, especially if they are a “key employee” (someone without whom the business may suffer notable economic hardship). The employee owes nothing else—the employer, however, must provide information in return, such as whether the employee is eligible for FMLA leave and whether or not the leave taken will be counted against the 12 weeks available under FMLA specifically. If you wish to take leave due to a health condition, an employer also has a right to ask for a medical certification or other attestation from your physician that a serious health condition exists. They may also “check up” on the employee during the leave.
If your employer goes beyond these FMLA regulations, you may have a claim for damages against them. The best way to seek redress is usually to file a complaint with your local office of the Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division. While some FMLA-related issues are mere misunderstandings, some do rise to the level of discrimination and may be actionable. For example, pregnant women being denied FMLA leave that they are entitled to in order to deliver their baby can be discriminatory, especially if it can be shown that an expectant father in a similar situation is granted paternity leave under the same situation with no trouble. Employers are all but enjoined from interfering with or retaliating against legitimate FMLA claims. Especially if discriminatory intent can be inferred, there can be serious issues for them in the future if they engage in such conduct.
Seek Knowledgeable Legal Help
FMLA and other leave issues can be extremely complex to handle on your own, but enlisting an experienced attorney can make a big difference. Attorney A. Christopher Potts and his Charleston employment law firm can help guide you toward an equitable outcome if you believe you have been discriminated against.
Contact our office today to set up an initial consultation.