The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that allows qualifying employees to take up to 12 weeks’ worth of “unpaid, job-protected” leave per calendar year. Leave is generally granted if the employee establishes that certain conditions exist for either them or a close family member of theirs. However, sometimes an employer will be resistant to the employee’s claim for reasons of their own. If they interfere in a demonstrable way, the employee may have a cause of action against their employer for FMLA interference.
Can Only Be Used In Very Specific Situations
In order to be able to take FMLA leave, an employee must meet certain qualifications. Their employer must be covered by the Act, and the employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours over the past year (and worked for the employee for 1 year or more in total) for a company location employing at least 50 people within 75 miles. In addition to the individual qualifications, there are only certain situations where the employee will be granted leave – in other words, an employee may not use FMLA time for, say, vacation. One can use FMLA time:
- For the birth of a newborn child (and to bond with them);
- To welcome a child who has been adopted or is coming from foster care, and to establish a bond with them;
- To care for a family member (usually a spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition;
- For “qualifying exigencies” arising out of the employee’s child or parent being on, or being called to, covered active duty in a branch of the U.S. armed forces; and
- For one’s own medical leave if they cannot work due to their own serious health condition.
There are minor restrictions on these conditions, but each case is different, so it is difficult to predict exactly what one might require in order to establish qualification.
You May Have A Case
When an employee seeks to take FMLA leave, their employer must abide by FMLA requirements during the employee’s time away, assuming it is approved. Taking approved leave qualifies as a protected activity under U.S. employment law, which means that an employer is forbidden from denying the employee leave if they qualify, and from retaliating against the employee for exercising their right to engage in protected activity. For example, by law, when the employee returns from leave, they must be offered either their old job, or one that is equivalent in terms of schedule, responsibilities, skill, and salary. Failure to do so is actionable.
Keep in mind that like so many other laws, the FMLA does have what is known as a statute of limitations. This is the time period in which a suit can be filed – for wage & hour complaints like FMLA actions, one must file it within two years of the date of the violation or it will be barred forever. This can seem like a long period, but it can go by in the proverbial blink of an eye, especially if one factors in the time to collect evidence and testimony. If you feel you have a potential FMLA claim, it is best to act fast and reach out for help.
Get Legal Help Today
The right to take unpaid leave is explicitly spelled out in U.S. labor law, but sometimes employers do not want their employees off work despite a good reason. If you suspect you are being denied leave you are qualified to take, contacting a South Carolina employment discrimination attorney from Hitchcock & Potts may be a good way to get your questions answered. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has experience in these matters, and is ready to try and help you with yours. Call our offices today to schedule a consultation.