At Massey & Duffy, we understand that nothing is more important than your family. As such, when you have to take care of yourself or your family, your last concern should be whether your employer will terminate you or take retaliatory action. However, if your employer is careless about your serious medical condition (or that of your family), you may have rights under the Family Medical Leave Act.
What is the FMLA
The Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) grants an eligible employee the right to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave annually because of a serious health condition. 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1)(D). Further, the employee is entitled to be returned to her position, or to an equivalent position, at the expiration of the leave. Id. The FMLA provides for interference claims, in which an employee asserts that her employer denied or otherwise interfered with her substantive rights. Hurlbert v. St. Mary’s Health Care Sys., Inc., 439 F.3d 1286, 1293 (11th Cir. 2006). To establish an interference claim, an employee need only demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that she was entitled to the benefit denied and is not required to allege that the employer intended to deny the benefit, as the employer’s motives are irrelevant. Strickland v. Water Works and Sewer Bd. of the City of Birmingham, 239 F.3d 1199, 1206 (11th Cir. 2001).
Who is Eligible
Employees are eligible under the FMLA if they have been employed for at least a year, have worked 1,250 hours or more during the year, and currently work at the site where the employer employs 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius. The employee or that person’s family must have a “serious health condition”. The employee must request the FMLA leave as soon as possible, but (in the even there is no emergency) at least 2 business days prior to the commencement of the leave. The employer then has 2 business days to notify the employee as to whether that individual is eligible for the leave; if no notification is made then the employee is deemed eligible according to the Department of Labor.
Common Litigation Issues Under the FMLA
In our experience litigating FMLA claims, certain issues are rather common. Employers often fail to apply the FMLA with any care or precision, and often fail to apply it at all. Employers sometimes even retaliate against their employees once learning that they have personal issues that will distract them from their jobs.
One of the most common mistakes employers make is failing to designate an absence as an FMLA leave in a timely fashion. The Department of Labor has ruled that the employees need not state that they are seeking FMLA leave, this duty is up to the employer. The employer must also address various issues with the employee in a timely manner, many of which are outlined in DOL Form WH-381.
Employers also struggle with the interplay between short-term disability benefits, the ADA, Florida’s Whistleblower Statute, and other rules and regulations designed to protect the employee. Requiring medical certifications for employees is also a problematic area which often leads to litigation.
Let Our Attorneys Help
Our Florida law firm can help with issues regarding the FMLA, including those raised by employers and employees. If you are an employee claiming a violation or retaliation for exerting your FMLA rights, we often can take your case without any charges to you unless we obtain a recovery.
If you would like to discuss your FMLA issues, please contact our lawyers at Massey & Duffy, PLLC, for a free consultation. We can advise you on the course of action that is best for your personal situation and restore your life (and that of your loved ones) to a stable situation as quickly as possible.