In a recent study about the end of life, the dying didn’t say “I wish I’d spent just a few more hours at the office.” The overarching theme of all the regrets named centered on relationships. “I wish I’d inspired more people.” “I wish I’d stayed in touch with friends.” “I wish I would have loved my partner/children better.” Established in 1993, the Family Medical Leave Act intuited the trends of the study long ago, instituting job protections for those who needed extra time caring for loved ones in all sorts of life circumstances.
What Circumstances Does FMLA Cover?
The Family and Medical Leave Act authorizes employees to take unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks per 12-month period for specific family circumstances and medical conditions. For example, Family Medical Leave is permitted in the first year of welcoming a child by birth or adoption, or for foster care. It is also reasonable to take Family Medical Leave to provide for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious medical conditions or when a medical condition limits the essential performance ability of a person at his or her job. Additional time is also available to care for an active member of government service (26 weeks per 12-month period) when the service person suffers from a serious injury or illness. 2015 also brought additional language to FMLA benefits to include those committed in legal same-sex marriages.
Your employer is required by law to inform all employees of their rights to take the FMLA benefits available to them. Furthermore, clear information must be presented to employees regarding the paperwork and time frame needed to grant family or medical leave – and those requirements must match the federal timeline. Employers cannot force employees to offer notice too far in advance or impose their own versions of notice to take leave. Note that employers must also respond to employee requests for leave within a reasonable period of time.
My Employer Did Not Allow Me to Take Family or Medical Leave. What Next?
If your employer did not allow you to take the Family or Medical Leave you are entitled to, you should check the circumstances against U.S. Department of Labor prohibitions to see if you might qualify both for benefits and damages. FMLA benefits apply to workers in all state, local, and federal agencies, local education providers, and private-sector employees who work in a firm that employs 50 or more workers in 20 or more workweeks per year.
If your employer is matches this criteria, you are covered by the FMLA as an eligible employee, which means that your employer may not interfere with or deny any attempt to exercise your right to take family or medical leave (Per Section 105 of the FMLA and section 825.220 of the FMLA regulations). Neither are employers able to discriminate against employees who take the benefit nor retaliate against an employee who states intention to use the FMLA or who has used it in the past. Employers are also prohibited from discrimination against any employee or prospective employee who has used his or her FMLA rights and benefits. FMLA eligible employees are welcome to full access to information relating to rights or benefits offered by the FMLA and may file charges if there is reason to believe FMLA benefits have been withheld.
With these things in mind, you might consider filing against your employer if he or she refused to authorize FMLA leave and benefits or even discouraged you from using the option to take leave. If FMLA benefits are contingent on a certain number of hours worked, the employer may neither manipulate an employee’s hours to avoid circumstances that would allow an employee to claim FMLA benefits. An employer is also forbidden from using FMLA requests and leave as a black mark against an employee when performing a review or considering an employee for a promotion or other opportunities in the workplace.
How to File FMLA-related Claims Against an Employer
The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor enforces the rights, privileges and claims for the FMLA. If you have suffered damages related to an FMLA violation, make sure you have adequate documentation and bring charges within two years of the date of violation. Public and/or private charges are options to be levied against a violating employer.
Work With A Legal Professional
You should also consider contacting legal assistance to answer specific questions about your circumstances. Legal counsel will not only answer your questions, but also guide you through the next steps of filing appropriate documents and claims. For more information on filing an FMLA claim against your employer, please contact The Brown Firm PLLC online or call to set up an initial consultation to discuss your options.