Too often we see overwhelmed clients who are facing the following scenario: they or a loved one has a serious health condition, they need time away from work as a commitment to care, but worry about risking their job if they ask for it.
Many of them are relieved to hear that they can qualify to be given unpaid, job-protected leave under The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This federal program provides a way for employees to balance work and health-related responsibilities by taking off up to 12 weeks of medical leave per year. FMLA also safeguards qualified employees who return from their medical leave of absence by requiring that they are restored to original or equivalent terms of employment, including pay and benefits.
Who can use FMLA leave?
If you, a parent, spouse, or child is experiencing a health-related commitment, you may want to know if you qualify for FMLA-granted time off to make care a priority. First, you must work for an employer that is covered: FMLA is available to employees that work for public (government) agencies, public and private elementary and secondary schools, as well as privately-owned companies with at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius. Private employers with less than 50 employees are not covered by the FMLA, but may still qualify under state family and medical leave laws.
Second, you must have worked for your (covered) employer for at least 12 months–not necessarily in a row. In those 12 months, you must work for at least 1250 hours before taking the leave.
When can I use FMLA leave?
Employees that are eligible for FMLA leave may take time off for any of the following reasons:
- The birth and care of a son or daughter or placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care;
- To care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent who has a serious health condition;
- For a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job; or
- For any qualifying exigency that arises from a spouse, son, daughter, or parent being a military member on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status.
Putting in a request for FMLA leave should be done in a timely manner with appropriate notice given to your employer. Depending on the circumstances, there are guidelines for what information to include in your request and when to submit it. Keep in mind that it is unlawful for an employer to retaliate or discriminate against an employee in response to their rightful exercise to take medical leave as granted by the FMLA. Retaliatory or discriminatory action as barred by EEO laws could mean interfering with, restricting, or denying an employee’s FMLA leave taken in good faith. In addition, firing or harassing an employee after they have just returned from FMLA leave could also qualify for retaliation, depending on state law and the individual case.
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For details on qualifying for FMLA leave and the process to request it, visit: https://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/employeeguide.pdf
If you believe you have been the target of FMLA-related retaliation, it is best to consult with an attorney to determine what the time limit for your claim would be, what protections apply to you, and if you have been illegally discriminated against.
Call Florin Roebig at (727) 786-5000 or visit our contact page for a free consultation.