If your children attend a licensed day care, you probably noticed that the daycare accepts children as young as 3 months. This cutoff date is based less on child development considerations than on legal ones; if you have been a parent long enough to enroll your children in daycare, then you know that babies do not magically start sleeping through the night once they have been on the Earth for 90 days. Instead, 12 weeks is the amount of time that federal law requires most employers to allow mothers to take a leave of absence from work after the birth of a child. Being able to take 12 weeks off of work because of your medical needs or family caregiving responsibilities might sound like a sweet deal, but the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is not as generous as it seems. It only provides unpaid leave, and even then, employers sometimes try to shortchange you. If you are unsure whether you are entitled to FMLA leave, the best thing to do is to contact the Alabama employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLC to discuss your situation.
Your Rights Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
FMLA is a federal law according to which employers are obligated to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees for medical and qualifying family caregiving reasons. FMLA requires the employer to reinstate the employee’s job after the employee returns to work at the end of the FMLA leave. It also makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees for taking or requesting FMLA leave.
Not all employers are obligated to provide FMLA leave, and not all employees are eligible for it. FMLA leave applies under the following conditions:
- The business employs at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius
- The employee has worked at the company for at least a year
- In the last 12 months, the employee has spent at least 1,250 hours working for the employer
You can use FMLA leave for the following reasons:
- A serious health condition, defined as one that requires medical attention and requires you to miss at least three consecutive days of work (pregnancy complications count as a serious medical condition)
- Caring for a spouse, parent, or child who has a serious health condition
- The birth, adoption, or initiation of a fostering relationship with a child
Does This Mean That There is No Paid Family Leave in Alabama?
Alabama does not have its own family and medical leave law at the state level; it follows FMLA, which is a federal law. State law does not require employers to provide any paid or unpaid medical or family leave, but some employers provide it, anyway. Your employment contract will specify whether paid leave is part of the compensation for your job. If it is important for you to have paid family leave, an employment lawyer can help you negotiate for a more generous family leave benefit before you sign your employment contract.
What if You Work for a Small Business?
Businesses with 50 or fewer employees within a 75-mile radius are not required to provide FMLA leave. For example, suppose that Kelsey works at Bo’s Barbeque in Mobile, and she wants to take FMLA leave when her baby is born. Bo’s has one location in Mobile and another in Daphne, each with 30 employees, so her employer is required to grant her the FMLA leave. Meanwhile, Brandi works at Ray’s Ribs in Birmingham, and she also wants to take FMLA leave when she has her baby. Ray’s has one location in Birmingham and one in Montgomery; each location has 40 employees, but the restaurants are 85 miles apart. Therefore, Brandi’s employer is not required to provide FMLA leave.
If you are not eligible for FMLA leave because your employer is a small business, it does not mean that you are out of options. If your medical condition for which you are requesting leave qualifies as a temporary disability, you may be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Likewise, if your employer fires you from your job because of your health condition or family caregiving responsibilities, it may be a case of wrongful termination of employment, and it may count as discrimination based on disability or on family status.
FMLA Leave and Workers’ Compensation Claims
It is possible to request FMLA leave even if the serious health condition is the consequence of a work accident or conditions in your workplace that are hazardous to your physical or mental health. If you experience a work injury or occupational disease (in some professions, mental illnesses such as clinical anxiety and PTSD count as occupational diseases), Alabama workers’ compensation laws require your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance to pay for the treatment of your work-related injury or illness. In some cases, your workers’ comp may also provide paid time off to recover from your injury or illness.
The rights and obligations of employees and injured workers under FMLA, ADA, and state workers’ comp laws are so complex and so full of potential for disputes that employment lawyers sometimes compare them to the Bermuda triangle or a game of whack-a-mole, but the short answer is that you can take FMLA leave for a work injury. Once your workers’ comp-provided leave period ends, you can ask for your FMLA leave to begin. Furthermore, employers must notify you about your rights under FMLA as soon as you notify them of your work injury. The Alabama employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you navigate the process of claiming paid or unpaid leave after a work injury.
Contact an Alabama FMLA Lawyer
Unless you work for a very small business, your employer must provide FMLA leave to eligible employees, and businesses of all sizes can be found liable for wrongful termination of employment. An employment lawyer can help you resolve a dispute with your employer about family leave or medical leave. Contact the Alabama FMLA lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP to set up a consultation.