Employers Listen Up: Tips to Avoid an FMLA Claim Against Your Business

Business.com / HR Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Employers and employees pay attention. Understanding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a must. Save your job or your company today.

Even the most dedicated employees sometimes need to take time away from work when a family or personal medical issue arises.  

As an employer, no matter how difficult it is, you must honor an employee's request for family and medical leave when it falls under the circumstances outlined in this article.

Because our society recognizes the importance of the well-being of workers and their families, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was created to protect worker's rights when special circumstances arise.

Here is what you should know about the FMLA so that you can understand your rights under the law.

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What Is the Family Medical Leave Act?

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a federal law, overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor, that requires employers to provide unpaid, job-protected leave to employees for medical and family reasons. The FMLA entitles eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specific family and medical reasons with the understanding that group health insurance coverage will be provided under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had never taken leave.

Employers who have at least 50 employees or more are required to comply with the FMLA. To be eligible, an employee must have worked for at least one year, for 1,250 hours or more during the prior year, or at a facility that has 50 or more employees . Employers are also required to provide employees with notices regarding their FMLA rights.

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is part of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and offers similar protections to the FMLA. Under CFRA, employees who work for private sector employers with 50 or more workers within 75 miles of the company's worksite and all other public employers are covered.

How Do You Know if Your Situation Falls Under FMLA?

If you are pregnant, ill, or you need to care for a family member who is ill, the FMLA protects your rights as an employee. Unfortunately, employers don't always honor the rights and protections that employees have under the law. If your employer failed to provide you with the leave that you are allowed to take or retaliated against you when you took time off from work, you should speak with an FMLA lawyer about your claim.

You may be eligible to file an FMLA claim, if:

  • You were denied leave for pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions.
  • You were denied leave after becoming a victim of domestic violence or other crime where you were required to serve on a jury or you needed to take leave for medical attention, safety or psychological counseling.
  • You were denied leave to volunteer on behalf of the California Wind of the Civil Air Patrol in order to respond to an "emergency operational mission."
  • You were terminated from your job after returning from a period of leave that meets the criteria for an FMLA claim.
  • Your employer interfered with your right to FLMA leave.

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Types of Situations That Fall Under the Family Medical Leave Act

Employees are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of leave per year. However, employees who need to care for a family member who has an illness could be entitled to up to 26 weeks of leave per year. To be considered for FMLA leave, the reason for the leave must meet specific conditions.

Employees are only permitted to take leave for:

  • A serious medical condition
  • A serious medical condition that affects a family member
  • Being a victim of a serious or violent felony
  • A birth, foster care placement, or adoption of a child
  • Exigencies resulting from a family member's military deployment

If you were denied leave for any of these reasons as an eligible employee, you may have an FMLA claim. In addition, employers can also be held liable if they misinterpret the law in order to deny you coverage under the FMLA by failing to recognize that you have a serious health condition or disciplining you for takinf excessive FMLA-qualified absences.

Employers may also be in violation of the law if you encounter problems while being reinstated at your job. The employer may be in violation of the FMLA if the employer fails to return you to the same position that you previously worked in, postpones your reinstatement, does not reinstate your benefits, or misclassified you as a key employee only because the employer isn't required to reinstate key employees.

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What Should You Do If You Believe That You Have a FMLA Case? 

If you believe that you have an FMLA case, you should contact an attorney right away. If you are facing an emergency, you should have an attorney negotiate with your employer on your behalf. If you would like someone to review your case today, contact our office to schedule your free consultation.

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