Family and Medical Leave Act

Everyone has to find a way to balance their work responsibilities and their duties as family members. If you need time off to care for a sick loved one, the last thing you need to worry about is whether your job will be waiting for you when you come back. If you have recently had a baby or adopted a child, you should not have to add employment-related worries to the adjustment of adding a new family member. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”) is a federal law that requires particular employers to provide leave while protecting their jobs for certain family and medical situations.

The FMLA focuses on allowing an employee to take leave for the following issues:

An individual can take 12 workweeks of leave in a 12 month period for:

  • the birth of or to care for a child within one year of birth;
  • a serious health condition that makes an employee unavailable to perform the essential functions of their job;
  • to care for an employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
  • the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement; or
  • any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty.”

As an alternative to the above, an individual can take 26 workweeks during a single 12 month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the servicemember’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).

Qualifying for FMLA Benefits

The FMLA can be very forgiving, but only if you qualify. It is a “cliff vesting” system, which means that you do not get any benefits until you qualify. Once you qualify, you receive all of the protections and benefits afforded to you by the FMLA.

Here are some of the important facts:

  • To receive FMLA benefits, you must have been with your employer for at least twelve months; and
  • You must have worked at least 1,250 hours within those 12 months; and
  • Your employer must have at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius of your job site (these employees can include part-time employees and those on leave).
FMLA Interference

An employee covered by the FMLA must be given access to the FMLA rights he or she has earned. Employers cannot interfere with or discriminate against an employee attempting to assert his or her rights under the FMLA.

These cases are frequently very difficult and fraught with emotion. It is sometimes hard to tell if an employer is retaliating against an employee who has been on leave or if that employer simply does not have work for that employee when he or she returns from leave for a legitimate business reason.

Our lawyers can help you determine if you have been unfairly terminated or demoted because you had to take leave to address a family medical issue, and assist you in taking action if a violation of the FMLA occurred.

Click here to learn about Family and Medical Leave Act in Washington, D.C.