The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law protecting employee rights to medical leave for the employee’s medical condition or an immediate family member’s medical condition. FMLA protects the right to return from leave to the same position you had before leave or a position similar to your prior position. If your employer interferes with your FMLA rights or retaliates against you for exercising your FMLA rights you are entitled to recover from your employer for lost pay, lost benefits and other financial harm. FMLA claims for retaliation, denial and interference are complex due to the complicated FMLA regulations. Working with an employment attorney is critical to putting yourself in the best position to defend your rights against your employer’s FMLA violations.
FMLA applies to employers with at least fifty employees within at least twenty weeks within the current or prior calendar year. FMLA will apply to each employee who has worked at least 1,250 hours and has been employed at least twelve months. Some exceptions do apply, such as for certain highly paid employees. Employers may permit leave for employees not meeting these requirements but the right to leave or to return from leave to the same job will not be protected under FMLA.
FMLA protects the right to up to twelve weeks of medical leave and return to the same or similar job with the same pay and benefits. FMLA leave is granted if the employee or certain family members have a serious medical condition. Family members included under FMLA are children, spouses, parents, siblings and grandparents. FMLA does not define what a serious medical condition is but courts generally define it as more than a common cold but broadly beyond minor illness when the medical condition affects the employee’s ability to perform the essential job duties. Pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions fall within FMLA.
If the need for medical leave is foreseen, such as in the case of pregnancy or a scheduled surgery, the employer can ask for thirty days notice, certification by a physician of the medical condition and request the employee schedule treatment, if possible, in a way that minimizes disruption of the employer’s business operations. If the leave is unforeseen the employer may ask for periodic updates on the condition and the employee’s intentions to return to work.
Under FMLA an employer may not interfere with your exercise of FMLA-protected medical leave, discriminate against you or retaliate for taking or requesting FMLA leave, or take adverse action against you and your job because you took FMLA leave. Some common ways employers violate FMLA include: