Many employees have the right under federal law to take unpaid leave for qualifying medical or family-related reasons. Below, the Riverside, CA employment lawyers of Wagner Zemming Christensen, LLP explain the FMLA, who it covers, and what it means for you. This article only addresses federal FMLA. California also has a family leave act called the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) which functions as an additional layer of protection and rights above the federal FMLA.
What Is the FMLA?
The FMLA, or Family and Medical Leave Act, allows eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family or medical reasons.
An employee who works for an employer covered by the FMLA becomes eligible for leave if:
• They have worked for the employer for at least 12 months
• They have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to taking leave, and
• They work at a location where their employer has at least 50 employees stationed within 75 miles of the employee’s worksite
Employees are required to give at least 30 days’ notice, or as soon as practicable. Employees are not required to provide a medical diagnosis but must provide sufficient information for the employer to determine if the employee’s request qualifies for FMLA leave. Employees must also inform the employer if the employee previously took or was approved for FMLA leave for the same reason. If an employer learns that an employee’s need for leave qualifies for FMLA protection, the employer is required to notify the employee that they are eligible to take FMLA leave and provide a notice of rights and responsibilities under the FMLA.
What Benefits Does the FMLA Provide?
The FMLA entitles employees to take up to 12 weeks of protected leave within any 12-month period for:
• The birth of a child or the placement of a child for foster care or adoption
• To bond with a child, within one year of the child’s birth or placement
• To care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent that has a serious health condition
• To treat the employee’s own serious health condition that makes them unable to perform the duties of their job
• For reasons related to the foreign deployment of an employee’s spouse, parent, or child who is a servicemember
In addition, employees may take up to 26 weeks of leave in a 12-month period to care for a spouse, child, or parent military servicemember who has suffered a serious injury or illness related to their service.
Employees do not need to take leave in one block but can opt for intermittent leave if necessary. Employees may choose or be required to use accrued paid leave while taking FMLA leave according to the employer’s paid leave policies.
While on leave, employees are entitled to have their health insurance coverage continued as though they had not taken leave. Upon a return from leave, an employee must be restored to their original job or to a similar position with identical pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.
Finally, employers are prohibited from interfering with an employee’s efforts to take qualifying FMLA leave, and may not retaliate against an employee who has or has tried to use FMLA leave. Employers also cannot retaliate against an employee who opposes an employer practice that violates the FMLA or who participates in any regulatory investigation or legal proceeding related to the FMLA.
What Are Your Legal Options When Your FMLA Rights Have Been Violated?
If your employer violates your rights under the FMLA, you have several avenues for obtaining relief. First, you may file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor. In addition or as an alternative to filing a complaint with the WHD, you may also pursue a lawsuit against your employer to recover compensation for lost wages or benefits or to be restored to employment.
How We Can Help
If you believe you have suffered a violation of your FMLA rights, contact Wagner Zemming Christensen, LLP today for a confidential consultation with our Riverside employment law attorneys. You deserve accountability and compensation and we may be able to help you demand it.