Employers that are covered by the FMLA generally can’t deny an eligible employee’s request for leave for a qualifying reason. However, there are certain situations under which an employer can deny FMLA leave. Here is what you need to know from the attorneys at Swartz Swidler.
Understanding the FMLA
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted in 1993 and provides eligible employees with the right to take up to 12 weeks off from work to care for their serious health conditions or those of immediate family members. This law applies to private-sector employers with at least 50 employees working within a 75-mile radius of one another. It also applies to state, local, and federal government employers. The leave is job-protected but unpaid, meaning that employers must return employees to their previous jobs or to positions that are substantially similar in terms of duties, pay, and benefits when their leave ends.
FMLA leave can be taken in a single block of 12 weeks or as intermittent leave throughout the year. The leave can be taken for any of the following reasons:
- Your serious health condition
- To care for your parent’s, child’s, or spouse’s serious health condition
- To bond with a newly born child, newly placed foster child, or newly adopted child
The FMLA also provides additional benefits to eligible employees with military family members. If you need to take leave because of your immediate family member’s service-related injuries, you can take up to 26 weeks of FMLA leave during 12 months.
You are entitled to take FMLA leave as long as you are eligible, work for a covered employer, and have a qualifying need for leave. You must submit a request for leave under the FMLA at least 30 days in advance or as soon as you learn about your need. For example, if you have a scheduled surgery, you should provide your employer with at least 30 days’ advanced notice. If you are in a car accident and are injured, you won’t have to give 30 days of notice. Instead, you should let your employer know that you are taking FMLA leave as soon as possible.
If your employer denies your request for leave when you have a qualifying reason and are eligible, your employer can be liable for violating your FMLA rights. Your employer can ask you to get a certification from your doctor attesting to your need for leave, however.
When Can an Employer Deny Leave Under the FMLA?
Employers can deny leave requests under the FMLA for any of the following reasons:
- You have been employed for less than 12 months by the employer
- You have worked fewer than 1,250 hours for your employer during the last 12 months
- Your employer has fewer than 50 employees and thus is not covered by the FMLA
- You or your family member doesn’t have a bona fide serious health condition as defined by the FMLA
- Your seriously ill or injured family member for whom you request leave is not your spouse, parent, or child
- You ask for leave for an unqualified reason
Employers can offer leave under the FMLA to an eligible employee when they believe that the employee has a qualifying need for leave. If an employer offers leave to an employee after noticing that the employee has a medical emergency, the employer should file paperwork under the FMLA for the employee.
HIPAA and FMLA Leave
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects patients’ privacy in their sensitive medical information that is held by a doctor, hospital, or another medical facility. However, the FMLA allows employers to request that employees secure medical certifications that they need leave from their doctors. If an employer files an FMLA leave request on behalf of an employee, the employer might also ask the employee to sign a medical authorization so that the employer can gather some personal health information.
What to Do if Your FMLA Request is Denied
If you meet the eligibility requirements, but your employer denies your request, you should do the following things:
- Get copies of your leave request.
- Ask your doctor to write a letter attesting to your need for leave, and give it to your employer. Retain a copy.
- Ask your employer to explain the reason for the denial in writing, and keep a copy.
- File a new request.
- If the new request is denied, talk to an attorney at Swartz Swidler.
Before you contact a lawyer, you need to make sure that you meet all of the eligibility requirements and that your employer is covered by the FMLA. Make sure that you have worked for at least 12 months and at least 1,250 hours during the past year. Check to confirm that your reason for leave is a qualifying one. If you are sure that you are eligible and entitled to leave but were still denied, you should speak to an attorney for help.
Contact an Experienced Employment Law Attorney
If your employer wrongfully denied your request for leave under the FMLA, you should consult a lawyer at Swartz Swidler. Call us for a free case evaluation at (856) 685-7420.