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What Is The Family Medical Leave Act?

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law passed in 1993 that allows certain employees to take “unpaid, job-protected” leave for specific medical or family-based reasons. However, it’s sadly not uncommon for employers to refuse or try to qualify an employee’s right to take FMLA leave beyond what the law merits. If you believe that you are unfairly being denied FMLA leave, calling a knowledgeable attorney is a good idea.

Do I Qualify For Leave?

In order to be eligible to take FMLA leave, an employee has to meet certain qualifications. They must work at a site that has 50 or more employees within 75 miles. They must also have worked for the employer for at least 1,250 hours within the 12 months immediately preceding their leave request, and have cumulatively worked for the employer for at least 1 year. However, that time does not have to be consecutive—for example, someone who worked for 6 months, left for 3 to serve in the National Guard, and then returned to work 6 more months would still qualify.

A person can take FMLA leave up to 12 work weeks within a 12-month period for several reasons. Examples include:

  • The birth of a child, plus time to care for that child for up to 1 year after birth
  • The employee caring for their spouse, parent, or child who has a “serious health condition”
  • The employee themselves developing a serious health condition that makes them incapable of performing the “essential functions” of their job
  • Any issue stemming from the employee’s spouse, child, or parent is a “covered military member” on “covered active duty”

Am I Being Discriminated Against?

While most employers will grant FMLA requests with little complaint if they are clearly appropriate, some will engage in unethical tactics to get employees not to use FMLA leave even when it is necessary. Sometimes an employer may threaten you with dismissal for using FMLA leave or refuse to sign off on a leave request that would otherwise qualify. By comparison, your employer may allow you to take leave, but retaliate upon your return—common methods include reinstating you to a position with a lower pay rate than you had before or giving a bad review for taking leave in the first place.

If you suspect you are being discriminated against despite having a valid FMLA claim, you must make a complaint with the Wage & Hour Division of the Department of Labor within two years from the date of the alleged FMLA violation. The Division is in charge of enforcing the FMLA and other labor-related laws, but if a consensus cannot be reached between you and your employer, the Department of Labor may bring suit to compel compliance. During this process, it is crucial to have a knowledgeable attorney on your side.

Call A South Carolina Employment Discrimination Attorney

The Family Medical Leave Act is in place to help employees who need time to deal with sudden health or family concerns. If someone who is qualified for leave is not permitted to take it, they should be able to be compensated for this unfair treatment. Attorney A. Christopher Potts and the firm of Hitchcock & Potts have been handling employment discrimination matters for many years—contact our offices today to discuss yours.

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