As much as you love your job, it isn’t the only important thing in your life. Employees have lives outside of the workplace, including spouses, children, and loved ones. This is why the government passed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to help employees feel empowered to take leave during major transitions or illnesses in life. With the FMLA, you’re able to care for yourself or a loved one without worrying about losing your job.
But what happens when your employee won’t grant you your federally allowed leave? Or even retaliates against you for using it? The lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys have years of experience helping employees secure their rights in the workplace. Consult with one of our legal representatives today to discuss the details of your case.
How Does FMLA Work in Massachusetts?
The Family Medical Leave Act is a federal law that requires businesses with 50 or more employees to offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical reasons. Qualifying medical conditions include:
- If the employee has a severe health condition
- If the employee intends to take care of a family member (child, spouse, or parent) with a severe medical condition
- To adjust to the adoption or birth of a child
- To see a parent, spouse, or child who is on leave from active military duty
The Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML) is a separate law that is specific to businesses run in the state of Massachusetts. Unlike the FMLA, the PFML Act is not restricted to businesses of a certain size. Regardless if someone is working full-time, part-time, seasonally, or self-employed, they can take full advantage of the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act.
This state-offered benefit allows eligible employees to take up to 26 weeks of paid leave for medical or family reasons.
Other related family and medical leave laws in Massachusetts include:
- Massachusetts Parental Leave Act
- Massachusetts Small Necessities Law
- Massachusetts Domestic Violence Leave
FMLA Employer Requirements
The FMLA considers private employers who employ over 50 workers as “covered employers.” It also considers all governmental employers “covered employers,” regardless of their number of employees. Government employers include federal, state, or local governmental entities, plus elementary and secondary schools.
FMLA Employee Requirements
To qualify for FMLA benefits in Massachusetts, you must:
- Have been an employee at your current job for at least 12 months (they need not be consecutive)
- Have clocked over 1,250 work hours in the 12 months before applying for FMLA
- Work at a location with no less than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of your workplace
For a serious health condition, employers can request a medical certification establishing that you are ill. Additionally, upon your return to work, the employer can also request a fitness-for-duty certificate. Failure to provide any of the two properly-requested certifications can result in your employer denying your FMLA leave or failing to restore you to your prior position upon your return.
How Employers Disregard Employee FMLA Rights
FMLA has helped employees across the United States balance family and work obligations. However, some employers will try to violate the law’s provisions. Some common FMLA violations include:
Employers may willfully misinterpret FMLA to deny qualified employees coverage. This could mean:
- The failure to recognize a severe health condition, such as a common cold with complications like pneumonia or bronchitis
- Automatically disciplining employees for excessive absences without accounting for FMLA-qualified absences
Notice and Certification Issues
FMLA requires employers to provide all qualified employees with sufficient notice of their rights and may also ask them to provide documentation (certification). Employees are also legally required to provide notice of their need for leave. Employer violations include:
- Requiring employees to give excessive notice over and above what FMLA requires
- Failing to inform eligible employees of their FMLA rights and obligations
- Failing to recognize employee leave notice even if they do not invoke the FMLA
Leave Management Issues
FMLA entitles qualified employees to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for most qualifying health conditions. If a Massachusetts employee takes advantage of their PFML, then they can legally take 26 weeks off work if they need time to take care of a family member or recover from childbirth.
In these instances, common employer violations include:
- Pressuring or hounding employees on leave
- Disciplining and firing employees on leave
- Making employees work while on leave
Upon their return, employees should be able to return to their prior position or an equivalent job with some exceptions. Violations include:
- Reinstating employees to a lesser position
- Postponing reinstatement
- Failing to reinstate benefits
- Misclassifying employees as “key employees” to avoid reinstating them
What to Do If Your Employer Disregards Your FMLA Rights
If an employer violates your rights under FMLA, you should consult an employment lawyer immediately.
Why Hire HKM Employment Attorneys?
It’s illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for exercising your right to medical or family leave. HKM Employment Attorneys can help you seek the treatment and compensation that you’re due. Reach out to us today to discuss the details of your case during a scheduled consultation.