The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is federal legislation that allows eligible workers at a company with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within 12 months. This leave allows employees to take time off to care for themselves or family members with a serious medical condition, which includes the birth or adoption of children. To be eligible, an employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and worked 1,250 hours during the twelve-month period prior to taking FMLA time off.
Unfortunately, sometimes employers do not fully understand the FMLA or violate the rights of employees who take this leave. Employers may retaliate against the employees, interfere with their FMLA rights, or refuse to allow them to take the requested leave.
When this is the case, employees often wonder if they have any legal recourse. When an eligible employee’s FMLA rights have been violated, they may file a charge with an administrative agency such as the Department of Labor or may file a lawsuit. If the lawsuit is successful, employees can pursue one or more of the remedies below.
While many forms of damages in a retaliation lawsuit include financial compensation, a court may also order the employer to take certain actions.
If the employer has fired an employee for taking FMLA leave or placed them in a lower position upon their return to work, a judge may order reinstatement. This simply means the employee must be returned to their previous position or a position of comparable responsibility and pay.
Employees who lost wages or benefits due to their employer’s denial or interference with FMLA may claim these damages in a lawsuit. Employees who were fired for FMLA leave can claim their full salary, while those who were demoted can claim the difference between their old wage and their current wage. When awarding back pay, the court will calculate it from the day the employer violated the employee’s FMLA rights to the date the judgment is issued. All litigants have an obligation to mitigate damages in a lawsuit, which means the employee must actively seek new employment, even if wrongfully terminated.
Front pay is intended to help compensate employees for the amount of money they may have earned if reinstated. However, if the employee has been fired and reinstatement is not possible, a judge may award front pay if the individual has not found another job despite a diligent job search.
According to the FMLA, a judge may order an employer to pay an employee liquidated damages. This amount is typically equal to the combined amount of back pay and front pay awarded. These damages are intended to compensate the employee for losses that may be difficult to calculate and provide an additional incentive to employers to follow the law.
If your employer violated your FMLA rights, it is important to know that you can take action. The statute of limitations for an FMLA lawsuit is two years or three years if a court finds the employer’s conduct was willful. Therefore, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as you believe your rights may have been violated. Our Columbus employment attorneys at Marshall Forman & Schlein LLC can help. Call us today or contact us online to learn more about how we can help.
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