A federal law known as the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”) was legislated to ensure that every worker, regardless of their gender, could counterbalance the needs of the workplace with the requirements of their family and home life.
The FMLA mandates that employers with 50 workers or more must offer mandatory unpaid leave to workers who need time off to care for their sick family members or help out with newborn children.
In other words, if the FMLA covers you and your employer, then its representations give you the freedom to deliver the level of care necessary to take care of your family while still allowing you to maintain your job security.
Is Being Denied Leave by My Employer Considered Discrimination?
Before the above question can be answered, many factors must be taken into account. For example, according to the law, an employer is only mandated to deliver specific types of leave, all of which are unpaid.
Benefits, such as paid vacation days, minor sick leave, and time off for local holidays, are entirely at the employer’s discretion. Nevertheless, the employer must still withhold from engaging in discriminatory practices when granting such perks during the different types of leave.
If an employer is refused leave to take care of a suffering family member, then the situation might be viewed as discriminating against an individual’s familial status. Discriminating against familial status is illegal in a handful of states (e.g., Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, New York, etc.).
It is essential to keep in mind that the terms of the FMLA are stringent. Therefore, a person should study to ensure that they are covered by its prerequisites and may exert their afforded privileges before making any proposals for family or medical leave.
What Are Some of the FMLA Requirements?
As mentioned above, it is essential to review the conditions of the FMLA before asking an employer for time off to care for a family member.
In general, some of the considerations for time off under the FMLA include:
- Whether the person has worked for an employer for at least one year and has worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the past year;
- Whether the employer employs at least 50 workers within a 75-mile radius;
- Whether the leave the employee is requesting must be proper (e.g., is it to care for a newborn child, their health condition, or to care for a sick child, spouse, or parent?);
- If they have enough days left to be qualified to apply (i.e., only 12 weeks of time off per year are legally required of the employer); and
- Whether the employee has one of the top 10% salaries within the business or not.
If a person can answer yes to all of the above inquiries and their employer has still declined to grant their appeal for family or medical leave, then the employer is most likely in violation of the terms of the FMLA.
The next step the worker should take is to contact an employment attorney as soon as possible to help decide the worker’s options and how best to proceed with a lawsuit.
What If I Do Not Meet Some of the FMLA Requirements?
Depending on the circumstances, a person may still bring a family medical leave discrimination claim. In addition to the protections delivered by the FMLA, the worker should also find out if their state or local laws provide supplemental regulations beyond the terms of the FMLA.
For instance, sometimes employees whom the FMLA does not cover may be entitled to time off regardless of certain circumstances. The circumstances may include whether their employer provides paid time off, business procedures, union contract terms, state law, or other regulations like Workers’ Compensation or the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Further, the worker should also examine their company’s employee handbook or personnel policies and consult with an employment lawyer regarding the other protections available in their jurisdiction.
Ultimately, it is essential to keep paper records of any incidents. For instance, when requesting leave, be sure to put it in writing (like an email) and to maintain any copies of correspondence transmitted or obtained from managers, as well as any medical documentation. This kind of proof can go a long way in sustaining a lawsuit.
How Should I Proceed If I Think I am Being Discriminated Against?
There are several choices that a person may pick from in the event of a discrimination claim. For example, suppose an employee is also a union member. In that case, they can contact their labor union official to check if they have any special union arrangements within the company or their union contract.
In addition, a worker should also file a complaint with their human resources department or their company’s internal grievance system.
However, it should be noted that a human resources manager is more concerned about keeping the business safe than they are with an individual worker’s well-being, so proceed with vigilance.
What Is the Relationship Between the Conditions of the FMLA, the ADA, and Title VII?
The FMLA and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) instruct a covered employer to give medical leave to an employee in particular cases. The FMLA and Title VII have provisions governing leave for pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions.
In addition, under Title VII, employers must not discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin when they provide family or medical leave.
Who Enforces the FMLA?
The Department of Labor implements the FMLA. The EEOC has no enforcement obligation for the FMLA.
When Did the FMLA Go Into Effect?
The FMLA went into effect on August 5, 1993. The FMLA final rule became effective on April 6, 1995.
Is There a Battle Between the FMLA Provision Permitting Employers to Ask for Certification that an Employee has a Serious Health Condition and ADA Restrictions on Disability-Related Inquiries of Employees?
No. When an employee requests leave under the FMLA for a serious health condition, employers will not infringe the ADA by asking for the information defined in the FMLA certification form.
The FMLA form only requests facts relating to the particular serious health condition, as defined in the FMLA, for which the worker is seeking leave. An employer is allowed to know why an employee, who otherwise should be at work, is requesting time off under the FMLA. If the questions are strictly restricted in this fashion, they would be “job-related and consistent with business necessity” under the ADA.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Help with Family Medical Leave Discrimination Issues?
Suppose you think you are covered by the FMLA and have been discriminated against or are unsure of what rights you have. In that case, the easiest way to obtain accurate advice is to consult a local discrimination attorney.
An experienced discrimination attorney will be able to explain all of the minor differences between the federal law, your company’s policies, and the employment laws enacted in your state.
In addition, it may also be in your best interest to retain an attorney because this field is particularly difficult to navigate and is often full of overlapping statutes. Thus, hiring a good attorney can be essential for maximizing your rights and protecting your job.