When you or a loved one experiences a serious health issue, it may require that you take time away from work. However, the uncertainty of job security and stress about whether your position will still be there when you return can add even more of a psychological burden to an emotional situation. The Family and Medical Leave Act provides job protection in this situation, and if employers violate their workers’ right to take leave, the employers may be liable for damages. To discover if you have a claim against your employer in the Baltimore area for violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act, talk to the experienced lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP today and schedule a consultation.
What is the Family and Medical Leave Act?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides unpaid, job-protected leave for eligible employees of covered employers for specific family and medical reasons. FMLA also provides continued health insurance coverage to employees taking leave with the same coverage as though they were still at work. Unpaid leave under FMLA may be taken all at once or intermittently as the family or medical issue requires.
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, if an employee returns to work before their leave is exhausted, an employer is required to return them to the same job or one nearly identical to it. Time taken off under FMLA also cannot be used against an employee as part of an adverse employment action, such as in decisions about firing, demoting, suspending, furloughing, or disciplining a worker.
Who is Covered by FMLA?
Eligible employees for the Family and Medical Leave Act must work for a covered employer. Private employers with more than 50 employees are covered under FMLA as well as government agencies at the local, state, and federal levels. Maryland’s Parental Leave Act also covers employers with at least 15 employees for a limited amount of unpaid leave in specific family situations.
In addition to working for a covered employer, an employee must have worked for an employer for at least 12 months prior to taking FMLA leave. A worker must also have worked at least 1,250 hours during that 12-month period in order to qualify and work within 75 miles of a worksite where the employer has at least 50 employees. The exception to these rules are airline flight attendants and crew members, who qualify if they have worked for at least 12 months for the employer, worked at least 60% of their applicable monthly guarantee, and worked at least 504 hours in that 12-month period.
What is Covered by FMLA?
If an employee is covered by FMLA, they are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave from their employer in any 12-month period for specific family and medical reasons. One such reason for FMLA leave is when an employee or that employee’s spouse, child, or parent suffers from a serious medical condition. Situations that qualify as serious medical conditions involve those that require either:
- An overnight stay in a hospital or medical care facility,
- Incapacitate a person for more than three consecutive days and require ongoing medical treatment,
- Incapacitate a person because of a chronic condition that requires treatment at least twice per year, and
- Pregnancy conditions that include prenatal appointments, incapacity due to morning sickness, and medically required bed rest.
Another qualified reason for FMLA is for military leave related to certain military deployments. In addition, an employee may take up to 26 weeks off of unpaid leave to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness.
Finally, an employee may take FMLA leave for the expansion of the family. This includes for the birth of a child, adoption, or placement of a child in the employee’s foster care. FMLA may also be taken to bond with the child and applies to both men and women who are expanding their family. However, FMLA taken for this reason must be taken within one year of the child’s birth or placement and must be taken as one block of time unless the employer agrees otherwise.
In Maryland, the Parental Leave Act also provides employees with limited parental leave for covered employers who are not covered under FMLA. This law provides eligible employees with up to six weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave during any 12-month period for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child.
Filing a Complaint for FMLA Violations
Employers are not allowed to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of FMLA rights with their employees. They are also not allowed to retaliate against an employee for taking entitled leave under FMLA, filing a complaint for violations, or participating in an investigation for FMLA violations. Retaliation includes disciplinary action, harassment, poor performance reviews, demotion, suspension, transfer, scheduling of poor work hours, assigning unmanageable workloads, or terminating an employee.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division handles claims of violations of FMLA. An experienced attorney can assist in filing a claim, which includes information regarding the specifics of the violation. An investigation will be instigated, and if an FMLA violation is discovered the Wage and Hour division will take appropriate action to rectify the situation. If there is not enough evidence to prove an FMLA violation, the employee then has the right to file their case in court. An experienced employment attorney is critical when filing a claim to ensure that your rights are protected and your case is presented with the best possible arguments to prove that a violation of your rights occurred.
Talk to Our Office Today
Do you believe that your employer in the Baltimore area violated your Family and Medical Leave Act rights? If so, the knowledgeable lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP are here to help. Call the office or contact us now to learn more about your rights under FMLA and receive an evaluation of your case today.