Understand your Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Rights

Tennessee lawyers holding employers accountable who fail to respect an employee’s rights in Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis, and Jackson

The Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted in 1993 to provide unpaid leave for employees who want time off to take care of family members. It includes mothers and fathers who want to take care of a newborn or when a child is adopted. The law also applies to family members who want to take time off to care for an ill family member and to individuals who have a family member in the military. The act only applies to certain employers and only for employees who have worked long enough to qualify.

The Tennessee FMLA attorneys at Gilbert McWherter Scott Bobbitt PLC are leaders in employment discrimination and employment rights cases. Our attorneys advise clients on whether they can take leave, and sue employers who fail to comply with the provisions of the FMLA. Remedies we seek include job reinstatement and payment for lost wages and unpaid benefits. Our lawyers also seek to ensure that the violations do not occur again. Employees who qualify can take unpaid leave each and every year. We make sure employees are aware of — and assert — their rights.

What is the FMLA?

The Family and Medical Leave Act requires that employers who have fifty or more employees who work within seventy-five miles of each other provide unpaid leave. Smaller employers are exempt from the FMLA because larger employers can more readily absorb some of the financial loss of hiring a replacement worker or shifting a current worker.

The law requires that employers allow their employees unpaid leave. There is no right to payment if the employee is not working. The unpaid leave must be granted for up to twelve weeks during a twelve-month period for:

  • Newborn children. Leave covers the birth of the child and maternity or paternity leave for the first year of the child’s life.
  • Adoptions and foster children. Care for newly adopted children and foster care is authorized during the first year of the placement.
  • Serious health problems of a family member. Workers can care for a spouse, child, or parent. Our Tennessee FMLA attorneys can explain when additional exceptions might apply, such as the care of a stepchild.
  • Serious health conditions of a worker. The employee can also take leave if he or she cannot perform the key duties of the job.
  • Military personnel. If a son, daughter, spouse, or parent is in the military, then the employee may be eligible to take leave. Our Tennessee FLMA attorneys can explain which conditions qualify for military leave.
  • Military personnel with a serious illness or injury. A close relative that is hurt while in service deserves the right to have family at his or her side. The FLMA provides unpaid leave for up to twenty-six weeks.

Employers cannot retaliate against workers who take leave by firing them, failing to promote them, giving them harsher job duties, creating a hostile work environment, or denying any earned benefit. Our Tennessee FLMA attorneys sue when employers retaliate against employees who assert an FMLA right.

When can leave be taken?

Employee leave under the FMLA must meet certain requirements. Some of these include:

  • Not every employee who works for a larger qualifying employer can take leave. Employees can only take unpaid leave if they have a sufficient work history. Employees must have worked for their employer for at least twelve months and at least 1,250 hours within a twelve-month prior period before they can take leave.
  • Leave can be intermittent. The employee can spread out the leave as long as it does not constitute a major inconvenience to the employer.
  • Employees may consider taking paid leave as well. Vacation time and sick leave may be better options because those require the employer to pay wages.
  • Employees are entitled to keep their job and return to the same work and same pay when they return from unpaid leave.
  • Employers may request medical documentation to support leave due to the health problems of a worker or a relative unless there is an emergency.
  • Employees should generally give thirty days’ notice before taking leave.

Get strong representation when your FLMA rights are violated

The Gilbert Firm fights for anyone who is the subject of discrimination in Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis, Jackson, and across Tennessee. We aggressively fight to hold the employer accountable and to get you the right employment status and all the work benefits you deserve. To review your case with an experienced Tennessee FMLA lawyer, please call 888.354.FIRM (3476) or complete our contact form.