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Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Violations

March 21, 2024 Uncategorized

In 1993, the first major accomplishment of President Clinton’s administration was the signing of the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA. This legislation allows an employee to take unpaid leave from their job in certain circumstances, and their job will be protected while they’re away. If an employer denies this leave or terminates the employee who’s using the leave, they may face civil liability for their actions. If your business is facing such charges, there are some strong legal defenses available.

What Is the FMLA?
The FMLA is a well-known law that protects employees, but it’s frequently misunderstood. The law protects eligible workers with job-protected and unpaid time off work. The protection isn’t necessarily absolute. In some circumstances, employers have the right to deny the employee’s unpaid leave request. Employers need to comply with the law by implementing its policies and procedures and only taking an adverse action toward a person’s employment based on factors that aren’t related to FMLA rights. For example, an employer can’t terminate an employee who chooses to use FMLA benefits. However, an employer can terminate an employee if there’s a documented business reason to do so, such as instigation of arguments with supervisors. Most states have at-will employment, but an employer may still have to show that the termination was for business reasons and not discrimination prohibited by the FMLA policies.

Employee Rights Under the FMLA
The FMLA allows an eligible worker at a covered business to take job-protected leave without pay for certain medical or family reasons. The law also requires the continuation of their employer-based group health insurance benefits during the time the worker is on FMLA leave. The FMLA allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in any 12-month period. This is a rolling period, not a calendar year or fiscal year.

What the FMLA Covers
Some qualifying events for FMLA leave benefits include the birth of a child and caring for a baby within the first year of life. Adoption of a child or foster care for a child are also covered events within one year of adoption or placement. An employee can use FMLA to care for their child, parent or spouse who has a serious health condition. Employees may use FMLA to recover from their own health issue. The FMLA provides up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave if the employee’s partner, child or parent is on covered active duty in the military. Some covered conditions include overnight hospitalization, health problems that result in incapacitation for three days in a row and require ongoing medical treatment at least twice per year and pregnancy.

Employer Rights
Employers have the right to ask for proof of the serious health condition. The proof must come from the employee’s doctor and be in writing. An employee has up to 15 days from the diagnosis of the health condition to supply the medical certification. An employer can contest the validity or sufficiency of the certification. If an employer contests the medical certification, they can ask the employee to cure that deficiency, get another opinion or visit another provider chosen by and paid for by the employer. The employer’s request must be reasonable, and it can’t put an undue burden on the employee.

FMLA Disputes
Employees may feel that their employer treats them unfairly after requesting FMLA leave. A dispute could occur if the employer contacts the employee’s doctor and violates the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act provisions. Disputes may be filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Job restoration is a common area of dispute. The employer must reinstate the worker to their prior role or an equivalent one with the same pay, benefits and employment conditions. Employers can terminate employees if no such job is available due to downsizing or closure. For-cause termination, such as the employee’s performance before taking FMLA leave, is also permitted.

Employers Covered By the FMLA
The FMLA applies to private employers with 50 or more employees for at least 20 weeks of the current or previous calendar year. To be covered, an employee needs to have worked for at least 12 months. They must have worked at least 1,250 hours during the most recent 12 months. The employee must be based at a location of the employer where there are at least 50 workers within a 75-mile distance.

FMLA Violation Defenses
Our attorneys use a range of defenses for employers charged with FMLA violations. Employee ineligibility is a defense option. An employee’s fraudulent claims of a medical condition is another form of defense for employers. Our lawyers may argue for a valid business reason for termination. The FMLA also has a two-year statute of limitation for cases. If you’re facing FMLA violation allegations, contact us at Lawscape today to schedule a consultation.

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