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Understanding Employer FMLA Violations

FMLA paperwork on a desk

Know your rights if you need medical leave.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives employees in Ohio and across the country certain rights if they need to take leave to deal with an illness or welcome a new child to their family. Unfortunately, not all employers follow the law, and employees are sometimes mistreated at work just because they exercise their rights. You may have recourse in this situation, but you need to fight for it. Our attorneys can help.

What are my rights under the FMLA?

The FMLA provides job-protected, unpaid family and medical leave to covered employees. To be covered by the FMLA, you must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Your employer has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of your work location,
  • You have worked for your employer for at least 12 months, and
  • You have worked at least 1,250 hours for that employer in the 12 months prior to taking leave.

If you qualify, you can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for your own serious injury or illness, to care for an immediate family member with a serious injury or disease, or to bond with a new child (whether born or adopted). This doesn’t have to be taken all at once; the FMLA allows you to take intermittent leave, sometimes in increments as small as 15 minutes. However, you do need to give your employer appropriate notice, including enough information for them to be aware that your leave may be covered under the FMLA.

What are possible FMLA violations?

Broadly speaking, there are three ways for an employer to violate your rights under the FMLA:

  • Denying your request for FMLA leave even though you qualify. Compliance with the FMLA isn’t optional. Every eligible employee has the right to medical leave, and your employer has to accommodate it.
  • Requiring you to perform work during your approved medical leave. The whole point of FMLA leave is that you should be relieved of all job duties. But, again, it’s your employer’s responsibility to accommodate this.
  • Retaliating against you for requesting or taking FMLA leave. This includes any adverse employment action: firing you, reducing your pay, passing you over for a promotion or raise, reassigning you to a less desirable shift, taking you off prestigious projects, and so on.

What can you do if your employer violates your FMLA rights?

The first thing you should do if you believe your employer violated the FMLA is to talk to an attorney. You need to prove each and every element of the case to get legal recourse. That means proving that you were entitled to take FMLA leave and that your employer unlawfully denied your request or failed to relieve you of all work duties. If you were retaliated against, you also need to show that the retaliation was connected to your FMLA request.

If you win your FMLA case, the court may order your employer to reinstate you or approve your denied request. You can also pursue damages (financial compensation) for your costs due to the violation. Under the FMLA, you can pursue the following damages:

  • Lost back pay; that is, wages, salary, and benefits you have already lost as a result of your employer’s actions (for instance, if you were unlawfully fired or laid off and lost income during that time).
  • Lost front pay; that is, wages, salary, and other benefits you will lose in the future (for instance, if it’s likely to take you another year to find a new job).
  • Liquidated damages equal to your lost back pay and front pay (essentially doubling your damages) unless your employer can show they acted in good faith.
  • Attorney’s fees and expenses.

You have rights under the FMLA. An experienced employment attorney from our law firm can protect them. If you had an FMLA request denied or are facing retaliation for requesting or taking medical leave, contact us for a free and confidential case evaluation.

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