Understanding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
If you are pregnant and end up getting fired after you take time off to have the baby, can you file a workplace discrimination lawsuit? Specifically, is this a form of sex discrimination or pregnancy discrimination? What about a situation in which you need to take time off from work to care for a family member with a serious illness? To better understand the answer to these questions, you will need to have a grasp on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and what this federal law both can and cannot do. The U.S. Department of Labor provides a pamphlet on the FMLA and FMLA-protected leave, which explains how this law can provide “unpaid, job-protected leave” in the event that “you are unable to work because of your own serious health condition, or because you need to care for your parent, spouse, or child with a serious health condition.”
Requirements to Use FMLA Leave
What can the FMLA do for employees who have serious medical issues or need time off to care for someone with serious medical concerns? In short, the pamphlet explains that an employee must meet the following conditions in order to qualify:
Work for a covered employer (generally either a public agency/entity or a private employer with at least 50 employees);
Have worked for the employer for at least 12 months;
Have worked for that employer at least 1250 hours in the last 12 months;
- Have been working at a location where your employer “has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your worksite.”
There are special eligibility requirements for employees with non-traditional work schedules, such as flight crew members. If you are in fact covered by the FMLA, then you may be eligible to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from your job under the FMLA provided either you or a family member for whom you will be providing care has a serious health condition. The following serious health conditions are those that are most often result in FMLA leave:
Pregnancy (which can include prenatal appointment, time off due to medically required bed rest, and even temporary incapacity due to morning sickness);
Condition requiring an overnight hospital stay;
Condition that incapacitates for at least three consecutive days and requires either you or your family member to have continuing medical treatment; and
- Chronic condition that results in occasional incapacitation and requires medical treatment at least twice per year.
Other conditions or situations may qualify as serious health conditions, and a Florida labor lawyer can help to assess your situation.
Filing a Claim Related to FMLA Leave
In order to take 12 weeks of FMLA leave, you will need to notify your employer of your plan, and you will be notified about whether your leave is FMLA-protected. If your leave is FMLA-protected, the pamphlet provides that, “when you return to work, your employer must return you to your same or nearly identical job.” Furthermore, the employer must provide the employee eligibility notice within five business days of the initial request, and either inform the employee about his or her eligibility for leave, or, if he or she is not eligible, provide at least one reason why.
If your leave was protected by the FMLA and your employer will not return you to the job you had previously, you may be able to file a claim. While your employer’s behavior might have its roots in sex discrimination or another form of discrimination, you will want to think more specifically about filing a claim related to your employer’s FMLA violation. An experienced Florida labor lawyer can discuss your options with you today. Contact Scott • Wagner and Associates to learn more about how we can assist with your case.