FMLA Violations: Are You a Victim?

May 28, 2020

The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that gives employees who qualify up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each calendar year. The employee’s job and certain other benefits are protected and must be maintained during the leave, or the employer will face penalties and potential legal action.

In some instances, a worker who has requested or taken medical leave experiences some type of retaliation, discrimination, or other illegal treatment for exercising his or her rights under the FMLA. These employees should contact an experienced FMLA attorney.

Am I Entitled to FMLA Benefits and Protections?

The first question that must be answered in determining if an employee is eligible for the FMLA is to establish if he or she is eligible for FMLA leave. The eligibility requirements are the same for all employees, regardless of the reason for the leave request. There are four requirements. An eligible employee must satisfy the following. The employee must:

  1. Work for a covered employer (see below);
  2. Have worked for the employer for at least 12 months as of the date the FMLA leave is to begin;
  3. Have at least 1,250 hours of service for the employer during the 12-month period immediately prior to the date the FMLA leave is to begin; and
  4. Work at a location where the employer employs at least 50 employees within 75 miles of that worksite as of the date when the employee gives notice of the need for leave.

If you and your FMLA attorney determine that the answer is “yes” to all of these questions, you next must determine if the FMLA applies to your specific situation and request for leave.

Does the FMLA Apply to My Situation?

Another threshold question in an FMLA case is determining whether the law applies to your situation.

The FMLA applies to businesses with 50 or more employees. A company that falls under the FMLA (a “covered” employer) is required to provide its eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year in these situations:

  • The birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child;
  • The serious health issue of the employee;
  • The serious health condition of an employee’s family member;
  • A qualifying emergency stemming from an employee’s family member’s military deployment; or
  • An employee’s family member’s serious injury or illness stemming from military service.

Remember that not every reason for leave is covered by the FMLA. You should review your specific situation with an experienced FMLA lawyer.

What Qualifies as an FMLA Employer Violation?

Employers cannot interfere with, restrain, or deny an employee’s exercise of, or the attempt to exercise, any FMLA right.

The Department of Labor explains that any violations of the FMLA or the Department’s regulations constitute interfering with, restraining, or denying the exercise of rights provided by the FMLA. Some common examples include refusing to authorize FMLA leave for an employee or discouraging an employee from using his or her FMLA leave.

Interference can also include manipulation to avoid responsibilities under the FMLA. Some common examples are:

  • Transferring a worker to another location in an attempt to keep a work location below the 50-employee threshold for employee eligibility under the FMLA;
  • Changing the essential functions of the job to preclude the taking of leave; or
  • Manipulating an employee’s work hours to avoid employee eligibility under the FMLA.

In addition, employers cannot discriminate or retaliate against an employee or prospective employee for having exercised or attempting to exercise any FMLA right. Some examples include:

  • Using the taking of FMLA leave as a negative factor in employment actions, like hiring, promotions, or disciplinary actions;
  • Counting FMLA leave under “no-fault” attendance policies; or
  • Failing to provide benefits to an employee on unpaid FMLA leave if the employer provides those benefits to employees who use other types of unpaid leave.

What are an Employer’s Duties under the FMLA?

In addition to being protected from any form of workplace retaliation or discrimination resulting from an employee’s leave, and employer is required under the FMLA to do the following.

Job Reinstatement. The employer must reinstate the employee to his or her same position or a comparable position when he or she returns to work. An employer who fails to reinstate a returning employee is in violation of the FMLA and is liable for lost wages.

Provide Employee Benefits. The employer must maintain that employee’s group health benefits. If the employer cancels these benefits illegally, it may be required to pay for damages resulting from the lack of health care coverage.

Again, the FMLA gives a covered employee protection from harassment, discrimination, or interference from employer for requesting time off. If you experience mistreatment related to your FMLA leave, talk to an FMLA lawyer at Florin Gray Bouzas Owens to determine if you have a viable claim for damages against your employer.

Contact an Experienced Florida Employment Law Attorney

Violations of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can be very serious. If you were wrongfully terminated or otherwise suffered illegal treatment at work after taking eligible leave, you may have a claim for damages. An experienced FMLA lawyer may be able help you obtain compensation for your treatment and injuries. Contact an experienced FMLA employment law attorney at Florin Gray Bouzas Owens, LLC.

At Florin Gray Bouzas Owens, our legal team is dedicated to the pursuit of justice for the people we represent. Our law firm has more than 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in personal injury law. We operate differently than many law firms and always put the best interests of our clients first. Contact us today.

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