An unpaid leave of absence is where a worker takes some time off from work while retaining their status as a hired employer. By definition, the employee is not paid during their leave of absence (LOA). This is different from other types of leave wherein the employee continues to receive pay or benefits.

The length and terms of an unpaid leave of absence will depend on many factors, including company policies, individual employment, and state laws. For instance, the availability of unpaid leave days per year may depend on company rules. Most instances of unpaid leave result from voluntary requests from the worker for medical, family, or personal reasons.

What Are Some Unpaid Leave Disputes?

Unpaid leave is generally a normal aspect of most work arrangements. However, they can sometimes lead to certain types of disputes and legal issues. These may include:

  • Disputes over unpaid leave vs. use of vacation time
  • Disputes over the length, purpose, or terms of an unpaid leave of absence
  • Getting fired during a valid leave of absence (such as those for medical or family leave)
  • Forcing a worker to take unpaid leave in a manner that violates company policies or state laws
  • Failing to pay a worker during leave when they are legally entitled to pay
  • Discrimination with regards to the availability of unpaid leave (for instance, denying a worker unpaid leave on account of race, sex, age, or other categories)

Lastly, unpaid leave disputes can often arise in connection with an employment contract. For instance, in a contract, some employers may specify the amount of unpaid leave that is available for a worker. Failure to follow the terms of the contract can result in a legal claim.

What If I Have a Dispute over Unpaid Leave?

If you have a dispute over an unpaid leave issue, you may need to take legal action. This may involve:

  • Notifying a supervisor or the HR department- often times, the dispute might be resolved using internal channels.
  • Initiating an agency investigation- government agencies such as the EEOC or the Wage and Hour Division specialize in various issues, especially those involving discrimination or other serious issues.
  • Filing a private civil lawsuit- this may be necessary if other routes for relief aren’t satisfactory.

In some cases, monetary damages may be available for lost wages, along with other types of remedies. Legal remedies may depend on state law as well as the facts in each case.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with an Unpaid Leave Dispute?

Unpaid leave disputes can often involve some complex areas of law. It may be in your best interests to hire an employment lawyer in your area if you have any legal issues involving a leave of absence. Your lawyer can provide you with legal advice and research to help determine what an appropriate remedy for you might be. Also, your lawyer can represent you as you make appearances in court hearings or meetings.