The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is an important piece of federal legislation that ensures employees who must take time off from work for family or medical reasons will still have a job waiting for them when they return. The FMLA is one of the key laws protecting employees' rights. However, FMLA violations can and do happen, either because employers are unaware of their legal obligations or because they wilfully violate the law. Below is a look at a few examples of when employees may be able to file a claim against their employers under the FMLA.
Who is eligible?
First, it is important to understand that the FMLA does not cover all employees. Only employers who have 50 or more employees are required to comply with the FMLA. Eligible employees must have been employed for at least a year and must have worked 1,250 hours during the past year. Employees must have also worked at a facility that employs at least 50 workers within a 75-mile radius. Furthermore, employees may only take leave for the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child; the employee's own serious medical condition; the serious health condition of the employee's family member; a family member's medical condition arising out of military service; or from other qualifying exigencies related to a family member's military deployment.
Potential FMLA violations
Employers may violate the FMLA in a number of ways. While firing an employee for taking leave is obviously illegal, such clearcut violations are relatively rare. Instead, violations tend to be more subtle in nature, but are just as harmful to employees. For example, an employer may misunderstand what counts as a serious health condition. It is illegal for employers to discipline employees for taking FMLA leave for a legitimate medical reason.
In many cases, employers will attempt to discontinue health insurance while the employee is on leave. Discontinuing health insurance during FMLA leave is illegal. Furthermore, while an employer is allowed to occasionally make contact with an employee who is on leave, that employer cannot constantly hound the employee about work-related issues or try to pressure the employee into ending their leave early.
Violations can also occur when the employee returns to work. If the employee's former position has been filled then the employer is obligated to provide that employee with an equivalent position. In order to be equivalent, the new position must provide the same salary, benefits, location, hours, responsibility, and so on as the previous position. Demoting an employee who takes leave or delaying his or her reinstatement are clear violations of the FMLA.
The above provides just a few examples of the most common types of FMLA violations. The truth is that there are many other types of ways employers may violate the rights of employees who take leave under the FMLA. Employees who fear that their rights may have been infringed upon should get in touch with an attorney today. The legal team at Weisberg Law is experienced in handling employment law and discrimination cases and can help workers stand up for their rights.