The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that requires employers to provide eligible employees time away from work when they have serious health issues or need to care for a family member with the same types of issues. Many employees do not understand they have this federally protected right, and not all employers always abide by the law. When this is the case, employees should speak to a Skokie FMLA lawyer who can help.
There are three main ways employers may violate this Act. The first is denying the employee leave altogether, even though the employee qualifies for it. The employer also has obligations during the employee’s leave, and upon their return to work. When any of these rights are violated, employees can file a lawsuit against their employer to ensure they are compensated and to possibly get their job back.
When eligible employees ask for time off under the FMLA, employers cannot try to persuade the employee to stay at work. They cannot state that they will consider the leave when determining who gets promoted, a raise, or any other benefits of employment. The FMLA provides employees with the right to take leave without facing penalties from their employers.
Some employers deny the leave based on the fact that the employee did not provide enough notice. When the leave is foreseeable, such as when the employee has a surgery scheduled, the employer is entitled to 30 days of notice. When the event is unforeseeable, such as the employee was in a bad car accident and needs extensive care, the employee is only required to provide as much notice as is considered practical.
Employers will also sometimes deny a request for leave based on the fact that they did not know it was FMLA leave. An employee has no obligation to mention the Act when requesting leave. If the request indicates that the leave is for medical reasons, it is the employer’s responsibility to know this leave is granted under the FMLA.
Only certain employees are granted the right to time off under the Act. An employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, and for 1,250 hours in the year before leave is requested. An employee must work these hours before the date their leave starts, not on the date they request it. An employer, therefore, cannot state the employee has not worked the required amount of hours when leave is asked for well in advance.
Many employees think that once they are on FMLA leave, any issues with their employer will stop. This, unfortunately, is not true. Employers sometimes try many tactics to get their employees to return to work. These include pestering the employee to come back early, or to work from home during his or her leave. While an employer can check in with the employee during the leave, they are prohibited from trying to shorten the leave or force the employee to continue working in any capacity.
Some employers do more than just ask an employee to come back. They may take drastic measures, such as cutting off insurance benefits, during the employee’s leave. This is illegal under the Act. As long as the employee continues to pay the premiums, that insurance is to remain intact during the course of FMLA leave. Employers must provide written notice of when and how the employee can pay those premiums. Only when an employee is over 30 days late in paying those premiums can he or she risk losing those insurance benefits.
It is illegal for employers to fire or discipline an eligible worker who has taken leave under the FMLA. Employees must provide two days notice that they are able to return to work, and the employer must ensure that the employee’s job is still available at that time. FMLA requires that the position be the same position or an equivalent position, the employee had before the leave.
Under the law, employers are allowed to deny key employees reinstatement of their position. These are employees that are among the best-paid employees in the company and that live within 75 miles of the employment location. When reinstating these positions would cause substantial harm to the employer, the employer may deny reinstatement. However, employers must also inform employees of their key employee status before the leave is taken.
If you have been denied your rights provided by the FMLA, it is important that you speak to an FMLA attorney in Skokie as soon as possible. At the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline, we can coach you on how to speak to your employer about the issue, write a letter to the employer on your behalf, or if necessary, even help you file a lawsuit in court. If you feel your employer has violated any of the terms of the FMLA, call us today or fill out our online form to learn more about your options.