Many New Jersey employees work for employers that are covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Employees who meet the eligibility requirements are entitled to unpaid time off from work for qualifying reasons, including their serious health conditions, care for seriously ill immediate family members, and more. A covered employer must provide an eligible employee with leave from work when the employee has a qualifying need to take time off from work. If an employer denies a valid leave request, retaliates against an employee for requesting or taking leave, or fails to return an employee to their former job or a similar position at the end of the leave, the employee might have grounds to file a claim against the employer for violating their FMLA rights. Here is some information from Swartz Swidler about claims for FMLA violations.
Understanding the FMLA
The FMLA is a law that provides eligible employees who work for covered employers with the right to take 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave for qualifying reasons. Employers that have a minimum of 50 employees who work within a 75-mile radius are covered under this law. Employees are eligible when they have worked for at least 1,250 hours and at least 12 months for a covered employer.
To take leave under the FMLA, an eligible employee must have a qualifying need, including the following:
- To treat their serious health condition
- To care for a seriously ill immediate family member’s condition
- To give birth
- To bond with a newly born, adopted, or foster child
- To take care of things related to an immediate family member’s impending military deployment
- To care for a military service member’s service-related injury or illness
While an employee is out on leave, the employer must continue their healthcare benefits. The employer must also return employees to their former jobs or to positions that pay the same salaries and have the same employment terms. If an employer violates an employee’s rights under the FMLA, the employee can file a complaint.
Statute of Limitations
The first thing you should know is that there is a statute of limitations or deadline for filing a complaint following your employer’s violation of the FMLA. This deadline includes when you file a complaint with the Department of Labor or file a lawsuit against the employer in court.
The Department of Labor states that you should file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division within a reasonable time after your rights have been violated and doesn’t specifically define the deadline. However, if you want to file a lawsuit against your employer in court, you must do so no later than two years from the date of your employer’s last violation of your FMLA rights. In case of a willful violation, the deadline is three years.
Steps for Filing a Complaint
You can start by filing a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division office in your area. Alternatively, you can file a lawsuit in the court with jurisdiction over your case. You will need to present evidence to support your claim, including such things as the following:
- Employee handbook
- Text messages
- Witness statements, names, and contact information
- Performance evaluations
Types of Complaints
The types of complaints that might be filed against an employer for violating the FMLA include the following:
- Retaliation for requesting or taking leave under the FMLA
- Retaliation for an employee’s filing a complaint under the FMLA
- Failure to provide notice to an employee about their rights under the FMLA
- Denial of a valid FMLA request for leave
- Refusal to reinstate the employee to their former position or returning them to a job with lesser pay, different terms, or reduced benefits
- Demand for an employee to return to work before their leave has ended
- Failure to continue the employee’s medical benefits while they are out on leave
- Disclosure of the employee’s confidential health information to others
Filing a Lawsuit
To file a lawsuit against your employer for violating the FMLA, take the following steps:
- Figure out which court has proper jurisdiction
- Draft and file the FMLA complaint
- Serve the employer with a copy of the complaint and summons
- File the proof of service with the court
- Wait for the employer’s response
- Begin the discovery process
- Negotiate to try to reach a settlement
- Resolve the case through settlement or go to trial
The following remedies might be available in an FMLA lawsuit:
- Job reinstatement
- Grant of the requested leave
- Liquidated damages
- Attorney’s fees and costs
How Might an Employment Lawyer Help?
The FMLA is complex, and an employment lawyer can review what happened in your case and explain whether you have a viable claim. An attorney can also help you identify and gather evidence to support your claim, draft and file the complaint for you, and negotiate with your employer to try to resolve your dispute outside of court. If your case can’t be settled, an experienced employment attorney can prepare for trial and litigate for your rights in court at trial. A competent attorney should be able to explain the laws that apply and help you understand what to expect.
Contact Swartz Swidler
If you believe your employer violated your rights under the FMLA, you should speak to an experienced FMLA lawyer as soon as possible. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler have years of experience and can assess your potential case. Call us for a free case evaluation today at (856) 685-7420.