FMLA Claims

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The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law protecting employee rights to medical leave for the employee's medical condition or the employee's 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 compensation for lost pay, benefits and other economic losses. FMLA claims can be complex and has been the subject of substantial litigation as courts and the Department of Labor have worked to better define the rights protected.

FMLA protections
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.

FMLA violations
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:

  • Terminate you while you are on FMLA leave because your employer wants you to be at work during your leave time;
  • Decline to approve FMLA leave for arbitrary reasons or because the business does not want you gone;
  • Give you a negative performance review because you were not able to complete the same amount of work as other employees who did not take FMLA leave during the same performance review period;
  • You return from FMLA leave to find your pay or job duties have been reduced because you were on leave or in retaliation for taking leave;
  • Terminating you, demoting you, or reducing job duties because you requested FMLA leave;
  • Harassing you while on leave;
  • Refusing your doctor's certification because the company does not want to grant FMLA leave;
  • Terminating you while you are on leave or when you come back in retaliation for taking leave.
FMLA remedies
You have remedies under FMLA if your employer refuses to grant a legitimate request for FMLA or takes adverse action because you took FMLA leave. Employees can request the court order the employer to put the employee back in the same or similar position he or she would have been in had the employer granted FMLA leave and not retaliated. This commonly means the employee will be reinstated to his or her former position if fired or demoted. The court could also order a promotion if the employee was denied promotion on the basis of the FMLA request or leave.

Typically employees do not want to return to a job where they were denied legal rights. In these cases the employee can pursue financial compensation through the courts to make up for lost wages and benefits, attorney fees, court costs and other financial losses due to being fired, demoted, or denied a promotion opportunity.

How The Kielich Law Firm can help
FMLA claims can be complex and require a very technical understanding of FMLA regulations. If you have been denied FMLA rights or retaliated against for requesting or taking FMLA leave you should contact an employment lawyer to discuss your case. The Kielich Law Firm can assist you with your FMLA claims. If you have been denied FMLA leave and still employed I can help inform your employer that you have a right to FMLA leave and negotiate approval for your leave. If you have been retaliated against for your request or leave, I can also represent your claims for reinstatement or compensation. It is important that you act quickly to contact my office after your employer does something prohibited by FMLA because the law places a limited period of time to bring those claims to court. Contact my office to discuss your case.

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