Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible employees can take 12 weeks of unpaid time off from work to handle their serious medical problems or to care for the conditions of their family members. If you take approved FMLA leave, you should be allowed to return to your job without consequences. While FMLA leave is supposed to be a type of job-protected leave, some employers fail to honor the obligations that they owe to their employees under the law. Employers sometimes retaliate against workers for taking FMLA leave. Unfortunately, retaliation is common. Employers might make it hard for workers to take FMLA leave or to return to their jobs after they have done so. If your employer has engaged in retaliation because you took FMLA leave, you may have legal rights to recover damages. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler can review what happened and explain the options that you might have. Here are some signs that your FMLA rights may have been violated by your employer.
Employer fails to recognize the request as falling under the FMLA
Workers do not have to refer to their requested leave as FMLA leave. Employers are expected to review requests and understand the types of leave that are being requested under the circumstances. Employers sometimes claim that employees did not request FMLA leave when the employers should have designated it as such.
Employers asking for an unreasonable amount of notice
Under the FMLA, employees are obligated to provide their employers with 30 days of notice for foreseeable medical leave. For example, if you have a surgical procedure scheduled, you should provide your employer with at least 30 days of notice about the surgery’s date and the expected recovery time. In an emergency, however, you may not be able to give your employer much notice.
Employers violate this rule in a couple of ways. Some require their employees to give more notice than what the law requires. Others are inflexible about the notice requirements in emergencies, including accidents or unexpected diagnoses. in emergencies, employers should be flexible with providing FMLA leave. If your employer is inflexible in an emergency, your FMLA rights might be violated.
Delays of approval or denials of requested leave
Employers can ask their employees to try to schedule medical treatments for times that will be less disruptive to their jobs. They can also ask employees to provide 30 days of notice for foreseeable leave. However, it can be problematic when an employer attempts to delay approval of an employee’s FMLA leave or to deny the request. For example, if you are told by your doctor that you need to undergo surgery to remove a recently discovered tumor in a week, it is inappropriate for your employer to ask you to put off your surgery.
Employers asking employees to work while they are on FMLA leave
FMLA leave is unpaid, and you should not be expected to be available by email or phone or to perform work from home while you are taking FMLA leave. There have also been cases in which employers have asked workers to work from home instead of granting their FMLA leave requests. These types of actions can be problematic for workers who are trying to deal with major health problems or caregiving tasks because of the difficulty of meeting performance expectations. In these types of scenarios, the employees might be fired for performance problems while they are on leave. Juries frequently find that the rights of employees have been violated in these situations.
Employers making it difficult for employees to take intermittent leave
FMLA leave does not have to be taken in a single large chunk. Workers can reduce their work hours or days while taking intermittent leave. When you take intermittent leave under the FMLA, your rights may be violated in several ways. Your employer might demote you or pile on too much work for you to accomplish within the hours that you work.
Job discipline for taking FMLA leave
It is illegal for an employer to terminate an employee because the worker took FMLA leave. While this still occurs, it’s more common for employers to engage in other types of discipline for their absences while taking FMLA leave. Some examples of these types of actions include harassment, verbal abuse, and unfair treatment after you return to work. Your employer might mark your leave down as an unexcused absence or use it against you when deciding against promoting you.
Employers refusing to reinstate returning workers to their previous levels
After you complete your FMLA leave, your employer must return you to your previous position or to one that is equivalent to it. All aspects of your job should be the same or similar, including your duties, benefits, location, and pay. If your employer tries to place you in a position at a lower rate of pay or in an inconvenient location, your rights may be violated.
What do you do if you believe that your FMLA rights have been violated?
If you think that your employer has violated your rights under the FMLA, you should contact an employment attorney as soon as possible. It is important to act quickly because there may be strict statutes of limitations that apply. A statute of limitations is a law that restricts the time within which a claim must be filed. If you wait too long, you may lose your right to file a claim. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler fight to protect the rights of employees. Contact us today by calling us at 856.685.7420 or by filling out our online contact form.