Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, certain workers have the right to take 12 weeks of annual leave to care for their own serious medical issues and those of their family members. The leave is unpaid, but the law allows many workers to keep their jobs while they take care of their family obligations. Despite the law, some employers do not understand their responsibilities and violate the FMLA. Here is what the attorneys at Swartz Swidler think that you should know about the FMLA and common ways that employers violate it.
Issues with eligibility
All companies that have 50 or more employees working within 75 miles of each other must follow the mandates of the FMLA. Some employees are not eligible to take leave, however. In order to be eligible under the FMLA, a worker must have been employed by the company for a minimum of one year and have worked at least 1,250 hours during the prior 12 months.
Leave can only be taken under the FMLA for certain situations. You are allowed to take leave for the following situations:
- Foster care placement, adoption, or birth
- Your serious medical condition
- Your family member’s serious medical condition
- Qualifying emergencies that arise out of your loved one’s deployment
- Your loved one’s serious illness or injury because of his or her service in the military
Employers sometimes violate the law when they deny leave to their employees because of misinterpretations. Some examples of how employers might misinterpret the law include the following:
- Not recognizing a medical condition as serious
- Disciplining employees who take FMLA leave for excessive absences
Notice and certification issues
Eligible employees must receive notices about their rights under the FMLA. Employers are also allowed to ask their workers for certification of why they need to take leave. Workers must give notice to their employers of why they need to take FMLA leave. Employers sometimes violate the notice and certification requirements by doing the following:
- Mandating their employees give more notice than what is required by the law
- Failing to notify employees about their obligations and rights
- Failing to recognize when an employee has given notice of his or her need for FMLA leave
Issues with managing leave
If you have a qualifying condition, you are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year. If you have a loved one who has a serious injury or illness related to his or her military service, you are able to take up to 26 weeks of leave. While you are taking your FMLA leave, your employer cannot end your health insurance. Your employer is allowed to talk to you during your leave, but it cannot interfere with the time that you are taking off from work. Some of the common violations that employers commit under this category include the following:
- Ending your health insurance
- Pressuring employees who are taking FMLA leave
- Firing or disciplining employees because they take FMLA leave
Problems with reinstatement
Unless you fall under a limited exception, you must be allowed to return to your previous job or to one that is substantially similar when your leave is finished. Employers make numerous mistakes with the reinstatement of their employees, including the following:
- Giving returning workers lesser jobs instead of equivalent positions
- Delaying reinstatement
- Failing to reinstate the employee’s benefits
- Misclassifying workers as key employees
What you should do
If you think that your employer should grant your request for FMLA leave, and your company has either denied your leave or has interfered with your rights, it is important for you to talk to an experienced employment lawyer as soon as possible. In many cases, getting help from an attorney can help you to negotiate with your employer so that your rights will be protected. If your employer has denied your leave or has disciplined you or fired you for taking FMLA leave, an attorney can help you to understand your options and the best steps forward.
The attorneys at Swartz Swidler are experienced employment attorneys who have an in-depth understanding of the FMLA and the corresponding state law in New Jersey. We can review what your employer has done in your case and explain whether your employer has committed a violation of the law. If your employer has violated the law, we can help you to understand your options and the legal remedies that might be available to you. To learn more about your rights, fill out our online contact form today.