For almost twenty years, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) has required employers to provide unpaid leave from work for new parents, seriously ill employees, and employees with seriously ill family members. Yet many people don’t know the specifics behind the law. Here’s an overview:
Is My Employer Obligated under the FMLA?
If the company or organization you work for 1) has 50 or more employees, 2) for each working day, 3) during 20 or more calendar workweeks in either the current or preceding calendar year, it is required to comply with the FMLA. State, federal, and local government, as well as public and private elementary and secondary schools, are obligated under the law regardless of the minimum number of employees. Also, if you work for joint employers or for a company that has closely integrated ownership or management with one or more other companies, those employers may be combined for purposes of applying the 50-employee threshold.
Am I Covered under the FMLA?
To determine if you are eligible for FMLA leave, ask the following questions:
- Have I worked for my employer for at least 12 months?
- Have I put in at least 1,250 hours during the 12-months prior to the leave date?
- Do I work at a site where my employer has 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius?
If the answer is yes to each of these questions, you’re covered under the law.
What Events Warrant FMLA Leave?
If you’re eligible to take FMLA, you can take a total of up to 12 weeks of leave:
- Following the birth of your child (as long as the leave is completed within twelve months after the birth);
- If you adopt a child or become a foster parent (within 12 months after the adoption or placement);
- To care for your spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition;
- If you are ailing from a serious health condition that makes you unable to perform one or more of the functions of your job;
- If a spouse, parent, or child is on or has been called to covered active duty (also known as a “qualifying exigency”); or
- To care for a “covered servicemember” (spouse, child, parent, next of kin) who has incurred a “serious injury or illness” while on active duty
I Don’t Think My Employer Is Complying with the FMLA. What Can I Do?
Essentially, there are two types of legal claims that you as an employee can bring against your employer relative to the FMLA. An “interference claim” involves a violation of your substantive rights under the law, such as where your employer refuses to reinstate you to the same or an equivalent position upon your return from an FMLA leave. The second type of claim arises when your employer discriminates or retaliates against you for taking an FMLA leave or takes any adverse employment action against you if you opt to take advantage of your rights under the FMLA.
For employees in Michigan and elsewhere, the Family and Medical Leave Act offers valuable protection. If you feel that your employer has violated your FMLA rights, you may have a claim for damages under the statute. We would be happy to evaluate your case and help you determine an appropriate course of action.