When employers violate the Family and Medical Leave Act, their employees may have grounds to file claims against them. Employers who are covered by the law must allow eligible workers to take time off from work to care for their own health conditions or those of their family members. When employees request FMLA leave, they may have legal claims available to them if their employers refused to let them take time off from work, disciplined or fired them for asking for leave, forced them to return early, or refused to return them to their jobs when they finished their leave. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler can evaluate what occurred and explain to the workers whether they might have valid claims that they can file against their employers. Here is an explanation of the types of damages that you might be able to recover in an FMLA lawsuit.
Under the FMLA, courts are able to give injunctive relief to plaintiffs when their employers have violated the law. Injunctive relief might include an order for your employer to stop or to take a specific action. Injunctive relief in an FMLA lawsuit might include time off or reinstatement.
If your employer’s violation of the FMLA was a denial of your request to take leave or involved your employer forcing you to return to work early, you can request the court to order your employer to give you the time off from work that you should have been granted. If your employer refused to give your old job back to you or terminated you from your position, the court can order your employer to reinstate you to your former job. Under the FMLA, you are entitled to be placed back in your old job or into a job that is equivalent in terms of job duties, pay, authority, and benefits.
If you prevail in your FMLA case, you can ask for monetary damages. In general, the monetary damages that you might receive in an FMLA lawsuit are those that will restore you to the financial position that you enjoyed before your employer violated the law. Courts may award the following types of damages in an FMLA lawsuit:
- Back pay
- Other costs
- Front pay
- Liquidated damages
- Attorney fees and court costs
Back pay includes the salary and benefits that were lost because of the actions of your employer. These damages cover the time from the date that your employer violated the FMLA until the date that you win your case. Front pay includes damages for the salary and benefits that you will lose in the future as a result of your employer’s FMLA violation. If the court orders your employer to reinstate you, you will not receive front pay. If you are not reinstated, you might receive front pay if you do not have a new position and have tried to find one.
The court can also order your employer to reimburse you for other costs that you have incurred because of your employer’s actions. This might include paying a caregiver to care for your ill family member because your employer denied your request to take leave to care for him or her yourself or other similar expenses.
Liquidated damages may also be ordered by the court. In an FMLA case, your liquidated damages might equal the total of your back and front pay awards. These types of damages are meant to compensate you for more intangible harms that are difficult to value. For example, these damages might help to compensate you for stress and other related problems that you encountered as a result of your employer’s illegal conduct. Liquidated damages will be awarded unless the employer is able to prove that its violation of your rights was in good faith.
Finally, the court can order your employer to pay the attorney fees that you incurred in order to bring your lawsuit. The court can likewise order your employer to pay your court costs, including the cost of filing your lawsuit, taking depositions, and other legal fees.
Damages that might be available to you under other laws
If you file a lawsuit under your state’s leave law, or you file a lawsuit because your employer wrongfully terminated you, you might also be able to recover damages for the emotional distress that you experienced. Emotional distress damages might include compensation for emotional anguish, suffering, and pain that you experienced because of the illegal actions that your employer took against you.
In some cases, punitive damages might be available. These are damages that are meant to punish your employer rather than to compensate you. They are only ordered in cases in which the employers engaged in extremely reprehensible conduct.
Contact Swartz Swidler
Employers that are covered by the FMLA and by other similar laws must grant leave to employees who request it when it is needed to care for their own medical conditions or those of their close family members. If your employer violated the FMLA, it is important for you to consult with an attorney at Swartz Swidler. Fill out our online contact form today to schedule a consultation.