Assistance with Family Medical Leave Act Claims
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take time off for illness, to take care of sick family members, and to attend to other medical needs, including disabilities. Often, employees who have exercised their rights under FMLA experience retaliation by their employers through termination or other adverse actions. If your FMLA benefits have been denied, or if your employer has retaliated against you after exercising your FMLA rights, it is very important that you speak with a Washington employment law attorney about your options.
Understanding Your Rights as an Employee
Under the Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employers with more than 50 employees are required to grant employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off for the following purposes:
- Pregnancy complications
- To care for a newborn baby
- To place a child for adoption or foster care
- To take care of an ill spouse, child, or parent
In addition to being able to take a leave of absence for these purposes, FMLA rights also protect an employee’s job from retaliatory actions. Often, an employer will retaliate against or take some sort of adverse action against an employee who has exercised his or her rights under the FMLA. Upon returning from an extended absence, an employee may feel as though he or she is being treated unfairly. The employee may also be forced to perform a new job, face demotion or termination, or the termination of certain benefits.
Washington State Family Leave Act
The Washington State Family Leave Act (FLA) mirrors and builds upon the rights of employees provided by the federal FMLA. Specifically, FLA provides additional leave for pregnant women and also applies the law to domestic partners and same-sex married couples.
First, FLA is more generous to women who must take time off during their pregnancies due to temporary conditions or disabilities. Under federal law, if a woman takes time off during pregnancy, both FMLA time and pregnancy disability time run concurrently, which limits the FMLA leave available following childbirth. On the other hand, state FLA leave does not begin to run until pregnancy disability time is exhausted. Therefore, if a woman must take off 12 weeks during pregnancy due to complications, she is still entitled to the full 12 weeks of FLA time following childbirth. Moreover, if a woman does not need to take any time off preceding the birth, FMLA allows only 12 weeks total following the birth. Under Washington law, however, after childbirth she is entitled to 6 weeks of disability time plus an additional 12 weeks of FLA leave. Therefore, simply because an employer provides time off under FMLA, a Washington employee will likely be entitled to additional time under state law and it is illegal to deny an employee these additional leave benefits.
Washington state law also allows FLA time for an employee to care for a sick domestic partner or same-sex spouse. Prior to the recent DOMA decision, FMLA did not require employers to offer leave benefits to care for domestic partners, though Washington’s FLA did require such leave allowances. Following the historic repeal of DOMA, FMLA benefits were applied to employees in states that legally recognized same-sex marriages, such as Washington. Therefore, employees in Washington are eligible for FLA leave to care for sick or disabled same-sex married couples and domestic partners.
Because the state FLA benefits may differ from FMLA, it is important to consult with a Washington employment attorney who knows the specific state laws if you believe your rights have been violated.
Family Medical Leave Act Claims Lawyer Serving Washington
If your FMLA benefits have been denied, or if you have experienced any retaliatory action by your employer after returning to work, you should speak to one of our attorneys immediately. At HKM Employment Attorneys, we can determine whether you have a discrimination or wrongful discharge claim against your employer, and if so, help you take the appropriate legal action. Your future, your finances and your family is too important to let adverse or retaliatory actions jeopardize your future.