The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is an important law that protects workers and their jobs should they need to take time off to care for a family member or for personal health issues. Even though this law protects employees, not all employers understand it, and either mistakenly (or purposely) violate it.
When can I take leave for under FMLA?
In order to be eligible for FMLA leave you must work for an employer that has at least 50 employees, work for your employer for at least one year and work for at least 1,250 hours in the year leading up to the leave. If you meet these qualifications, you are entitled to up to 12 weeks of leave per year for FMLA-qualifying reasons. Employees requesting FMLA leave can do so for the following reasons:
- Your own serious health condition
- Serious health condition of an immediate family member
- Foster care placement, birth, or adoption of a child (for both mothers and fathers)
- Serious injury or health issue of a family member caused by military service
- Exigencies that qualify and arise from a family member’s deployment in the military
How employers get into trouble with FMLA
The main issue is that employers often misinterpret the law, to the point where they incorrectly deny an employee’s request for leave through FMLA. This most often occurs when the employer fails to recognize what a serious medical condition is. For example, FMLA does not cover minor health issues, such as a cold – but if complications arise from a cold, like bronchitis or pneumonia, these would be serious enough conditions to grant leave under FMLA. On the other hand, conditions that require overnight hospitalization or repeated doctor’s visits are usually covered.
Another common violation of FMLA made by employers is disciplining employees who take excessive leaves. There are companies operating today that have no-fault absence policies in place. These policies count every single absence of an employee against them, no matter why the employee took them. Under these policies, an employee is disciplined when he or she records a set number of absences. Any absence that qualified under FMLA cannot be held against an employee. This often occurs because the employer fails to ask for a reason why the employee is absent, and therefore doesn’t know it was due to FMLA-approved leave.
Common employer FMLA violations
Below is a list of the most common employer FMLA violations that our FMLA attorneys deal with on a regular basis:
- Denying eligible employees their requested leave
- Asking employees who are on leave to perform work
- Failing to notify employees of their FMLA rights
- Changing a returning employee’s job duties or title
- Terminating an employee who is on FMLA leave
- Counting leave approved under FMLA as excessive absences
- Failing to continue the employer-provided health coverage for the employee on leave
- Pressuring employees on leave to return early
- Postponing the reinstatement of the employee from leave
- Misclassifying the employee returning from leave
- Failing to reinstate the benefits of the employee returning from leave
- Asking employees to provide too much notice of FMLA leave
- Failing to recognize the notice given by the employee seeking leave under FMLA
- Requiring a fitness-for-duty certification upon return from leave without prior notice
- Requesting an employee provide health information beyond the FMLA-qualifying condition
- Failing to provide required paperwork to an employee seeking FMLA leave or returning from FMLA leave
Do you believe that your employer has violated FMLA by denying you time off to care for yourself or for a loved one in Tennessee? If so, it’s in your best interest to speak with an experienced FMLA attorney from The Gilbert Firm immediately. Call Jonathan Bobbitt, Justin Gilbert, or any of our Tennessee employment attorneys at 888-996-9731 today to schedule a consultation or contact us today.