Rights Guaranteed by the FMLA
Although many people know that federal law requires employers to pay their workers the minimum wage and to compensate them for overtime, few are aware that they also have rights to unpaid leave in certain cases. This is because Congress enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a law that entitles qualifying employees to 90 days of unpaid leave every year for family and medical-related reasons. Unfortunately, many employers fail to abide by these rules, so if you believe that you qualify for FMLA leave, you should consider contacting an experienced Columbus FMLA lawyer who can ensure that your rights are protected.
Who is Covered by the FMLA?
The FMLA only applies to certain employees, including individuals who are employed by:
- Public/government agencies;
- The elementary and secondary school system; and
- Companies that employ at least 50 workers.
Employees who fall under these categories are guaranteed certain rights under the FMLA, including up to three months of unpaid leave per year. However, FMLA leave is only granted in specific situations, such as:
- For the birth of a newborn or recently adopted child;
- For the care of a newborn or recently adopted child;
- For health complications related to or caused by pregnancy;
- To provide care for a child, spouse, or parent suffering from a qualifying illness; and
- To recover from a serious illness.
While most leave is capped at three months, in some cases, it can be extended to up to 26 weeks during a one year period, but only if an employee needs to take the time off to care for a spouse, parent, child, or next of kin who is also a service member recovering from a serious injury.
Even when employers must abide by the FMLA, a worker can only take FMLA-approved leave if he or she:
- Has worked for the employer for no less than 12 months;
- Has worked 1,250 or more hours in the last year; and
- Works for an employer who employs at least 50 employees within 75 miles of the location.
Fortunately, the 12 months of employment does not have to be consecutive for an employee to qualify for FMLA leave. This means that any time previously worked for the same employer can be used to satisfy the 12 month requirement, a rule that also applies to seasonal work. The only exception to this rule is in cases where an employee has a break in service that lasted more than seven years.
Covered employers cannot deny or interfere with the rights granted to qualifying employees by the FMLA. This includes a prohibition against discriminating against a worker for exercising an FMLA right or for:
- Submitting a FMLA-related claim;
- Cooperating with authorities when asked about an FMLA-related inquiry; or
- Giving testimony in a FMLA rights-related proceeding.
Employers who fail to uphold these protections can be required to reinstate employees, pay lost wages, and provide coverage for medical expenses that would have been provided under the employer’s insurance.
The Legal Representation You Deserve
Call Marshall Forman & Schlein, LLC at (614) 463-9790 to discuss your FMLA-related questions or concerns with an experienced FMLA attorney.