FMLA Violations Lawsuits

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 What Is The Family And Medical Leave Act?

The Family and Medical Leave Act, or “FMLA,” is a federal labor Act that was passed in 1993. The Act provides all eligible employees with up to twelve weeks of unpaid medical leave, while also protecting their position in their absence. Eligible employees have the right to take this time off of work in order to tend to their own health problems, or take care of another person, such as an ill family member or a new child.

All employers who are covered by the Act are required to preserve the employee’s health benefits, just as if they were still actively working. Additionally, the Act prohibits employers from terminating any eligible employee while they are away on leave.

Because the Act is a federal law, it can preempt state labor laws that may conflict with the FMLA. As such, an otherwise eligible employee working in a state that offers little to no family and medical leave may likely find protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act. There are some states that do have labor laws that actually provide more coverage than the Act; however, in general, many states do not provide more leave than what they are required to provide by federal law.

It is important to note that not all employers are required to adhere to the Family and Medical Leave Act. Under federal law, employers are required to provide eligible employees with the benefits and leave detailed by the Act if the employer:

  • Is a state, local, or federal governmental agency;
  • Is a private business that conducts interstate commerce, with fifty or more employees, and those employees work twenty or more weeks in one year; and/or
  • Engages in commerce, and/or participates in an industry that affects commerce.

Nearly every business meets the requirement of engaging in commerce, or participates in an industry that affects commerce.

Can I File A Lawsuit For FMLA Violations?

Generally speaking, employers must allow their eligible employees to return to their former position after taking leave under the FMLA. However, there are some exceptions to this rule that should be understood before discussing any employer violations. First, employees on leave do not necessarily have any more rights or privileges than any of their fellow employees.

What this means is that if an employer determines that a round of layoffs is necessary, an employee who is out on FMLA leave is just as susceptible to being laid off as any other employee. This would happen without their employer committing any FMLA violation.

Second, any employee who is earning one of the top ten percent salaries at the company does not have any inherent right to be reinstated to their position at the same rate of pay and benefits once they return from FMLA leave. This is especially true if their return from FMLA leave would cause “substantial and grievous economic burden” to their employer.

In order to determine whether an employer has triggered an FMLA violation, it must be determined whether the employer is actually required to submit to the FMLA. In addition to the criteria that was previously mentioned, only employers of fifty or more people are legally required to adhere to the FMLA. It must also be determined whether the employee is eligible to receive FMLA benefits.

Some of the most common criteria include, but may not be limited to:

  • The employee must have worked for at least one year with the company; and
  • The employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours during that year.

Some of the most common FMLA violations committed by employers include:

  • Lack of Notice: By law, employers who are required to adhere to the FMLA are also required to provide their employees with notice of the FMLA. Employers are legally allowed to ask their employees for specific documents related to their claim, in order to verify information. However, requiring an employee to provide an excessive amount of documentation, or failing to provide adequate notice of FMLA benefits, would be a violation;
  • Mismanagement of Leave Time: Eligible employees are entitled to up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave per year for qualifying conditions or triggering events. During this leave, an employer may communicate with the employee, but not to the extent that it interferes with the employee’s leave. As such, mismanaging an employee’s leave could justify an FMLA violation lawsuit; and
  • Reinstatement Issues: To reiterate, all employees who take FMLA leave are entitled to be reinstated to their position once they return. Although this provision is subject to certain exceptions, failure to reinstate an employee is an FMLA violation.

What Is FMLA Discrimination?

Once again, the FMLA requires that employers who have 50 employees or more must offer mandatory unpaid leave to employees who need time off for qualifying reasons. As such, if you and your employer are both covered by the FMLA, its terms allow you to take care of your family while still allowing you to maintain your job security.

It is important to note that according to the law, an employer is only required to provide certain types of leave. Additionally, all types of leave are on an unpaid basis.

Benefits are completely at the discretion of the employer. This would include paid vacation days, minor sick leave, and time off for holidays or religious observances. However, the employer must still refrain from engaging in discriminatory practices when granting these benefits during the various types of leave.

What this means is that if an employee is denied leave in order to take care of a sick family member, this could be considered as discriminating against an individual’s familial status. Family responsibilities discrimination is illegal in a number of states, including but not limited to:

  • Alaska;
  • Connecticut;
  • Delaware;
  • District of Columbia; and
  • New York.

It is important to remember that the terms of the FMLA are considerably strict. Because of this, you should ensure that you are covered by its conditions and can actually exercise your rights before making any requests for family and/or medical leave.

In the event of a family and medical leave discrimination claim, there are a number of legal options from which you can choose. An example of this would be how if an employee is also a union member, they can contact their labor union official in order to determine whether they have any union arrangements within the company or their union contract.

Additionally, you should file a complaint with the human resources department, or your company’s internal grievance system. Doing so can allow the issue to be resolved without legal interference. Additionally, it may be required that you exhaust all administrative remedies prior to taking any sort of legal action, such as a lawsuit.

However, it is imperative to note that a human resources manager is more concerned about keeping the company safe than they are with an individual employee’s well-being. You should proceed with caution when addressing an FMLA violation with your company’s human resources department.

Do I Need A Lawyer For FMLA Violations Lawsuits?

If your employer has violated your FMLA rights, or if you are an employer needing to avoid committing a violation, you should consult with an employment law attorney.

An experienced employment lawyer can clarify whether you qualify under the FMLA, and if your employer has committed a violation against your rights. Additionally, an attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.

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