Detroit Family and Medical Leave Act Violation Attorneys

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA or Act) is a federal law that took effect in 1993. It gives qualified employees the right to take medical leave to care for themselves or eligible family members. Since it took effect, it has been amended or modified several times to ensure it protects workers and addresses changing public health issues.

Evidence suggests that employers who adopt flexible practices in the workplace boost productivity, improve morale, and benefit the economy. The FMLA is the cornerstone of the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) efforts to promote work-life balance and protect American workers.

Unfortunately, some employers unlawfully deny and retaliate against Michigan employees who attempt to take protected FMLA leave. Detroit employees who believe their employer unlawfully violated their rights should contact the experienced FMLA attorneys at Sommers Schwartz. Our powerhouse litigation firm has recovered more than one billion dollars for our clients. When your future is on the line, our team will fight for you.

What Is FMLA?

The FMLA codified a fundamental public policy principle. It recognized that employees should not have to choose between their job and their or their family’s health. FMLA acknowledged that workers’ contributions to the health and well-being of their families are an important part of a healthy, stable economy.

The Act allows eligible employees to take job-protected, unpaid leave for up to 12 work weeks in any 12 months. It requires their employers to maintain their health benefits as if they had continued to work instead of taking leave. In most cases, an employee has the right to return to the same or an equivalent position with equivalent pay, benefits, and working conditions at the end of their leave. 

The leave guaranteed under FMLA is unpaid. An employee may choose (or an employer may require them) to take any accrued paid leave as part of their FMLA entitlement.

Who Is Covered Under FMLA?

The Act applies to public agencies, public and private elementary and secondary schools, and private-sector employers with 50 or more employees. All covered employers must conspicuously display a poster prepared by the Department of Labor summarizing the major provisions of the FMLA and telling employees how to file a complaint.

To be eligible, employees must work for a covered employer for at least 12 months. They must have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months before beginning their leave at a worksite with at least 50 employees within 75 miles. 

Many employees in unique industries experience challenges in determining coverage. For instance, there are special rules for airline flight crews, instructional school employees, and other school employees. 

Qualifying Relationships Under the FMLA

Eligible employees may take FMLA leave for reasons pertaining to their own health or the health of certain family members. Situations where FMLA leave is appropriate include:

  • The birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child with you.
  • Your serious mental or physical health condition that makes you unable to work.
  • Caring for your spouse, child, or parent with a serious mental or physical health condition.
  • Certain qualifying reasons related to the foreign deployment of your spouse, child, or parent who is a military service member.

Federal law defines “parent” as a biological, adoptive, step, foster parent, or someone who stands “in loco parentis” (in the legal place of a parent) to the employee. Under the FMLA, the definition does not include in-laws. “Spouse” refers to a husband or wife defined in the state where the employee was married.

For leave other than military family leave, a “son or daughter” refers to a biological, adopted, foster, stepchild, or child of a person standing in loco parentis who is under 18 years of age or incapable of self-care because of a disability. 

Qualifying FMLA Medical Conditions 

Employees may take leave for “serious” health conditions. The FMLA defines a serious health condition as an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition involving inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider. Both physical and mental health conditions qualify for FMLA leave.

The FMLA also entitles any parent to take leave for “bonding time” after the birth or placement of a child in their care. Employees may take this leave before the actual birth, placement, or adoption. However, leave must be completed within one year after the date of the birth or placement. 

Qualifying Military Leave

If a qualifying employee’s spouse, parent, son, or daughter is a military member who is deployed or has been notified of an impending deployment to a foreign country, they may be entitled to exigency leave. This allows up to a total of 12 work weeks of FMLA leave for qualifying exigencies, such as making care arrangements for children, attending official military ceremonies, and spending time together if the service member gets R&R leave.

If you are a qualifying spouse, parent, son, daughter, or next-of-kin of a covered service member, you may be entitled to military caregiver leave. This provision allows you to take up to 26 work weeks of unpaid leave during a single 12-month period to take care of your military relative if they have a qualifying serious injury or illness.

How To Take FMLA Leave

Employers and employees share responsibilities under the FMLA, and communication between them is critical. 

Employer Notice Requirements Under FMLA 

Covered employers must inform employees of their FMLA rights by posting a general notice. They must also notify new employees in an employee handbook or separate handout upon hiring. If a significant portion of the workforce is not literate in English, an employer must provide information about FMLA in other languages to ensure they understand.

Additionally, employers must provide an eligibility notice within five business days of an employee’s leave request. If it determines an employee is not eligible, the employer must provide a reason.

Employee Notice Requirements

Qualifying employees who wish to take leave must provide their employers with sufficient and timely notice of their needs. They must also provide certification to support their need, provide periodic status reports, and provide fitness-for-duty certifications at their employer’s request.

If the requested leave is foreseeable, employees should give their employer 30 days’ notice or as much as practicable. In cases of unforeseeable leave, the employee should provide notice as soon as possible.  

Can Employers Retaliate Against an Employee for Taking FMLA Leave?

Employers cannot interfere with, restrain, or deny a qualifying employee’s FMLA rights. Further, they cannot discriminate or retaliate against an employee for exercising their FMLA rights. This includes discharging or disciplining employees because they participated in any FMLA proceedings. Employers cannot use an employee’s FMLA leave as a negative factor in any employment actions, including promotion, termination, scheduling, and workforce reduction.

Asserting an FMLA Retaliation Claim Against a Michigan Employer

Employees pursuing an FMLA retaliation claim against their employer must establish that:

  1. They engaged in a statutorily protected activity related to FMLA.
  2. Their employer took adverse action against them.
  3. A causal connection exists between the protected activity and the adverse job action. 

Although employers must act to keep their organization running while an employee is on leave, they must adhere to federal law. This includes refraining from adverse actions against their employees. 

The following are examples of situations that may indicate illegal retaliation.

  • An employer assigns the employee a full-time workload that must be completed on the part-time schedule they have requested under FMLA. When the employee fails to meet the onerous burden, the employer fires the employee for “performance-related reasons.”
  • An employer tells the employee they cannot do their job part-time and demotes them to an inequivalent position.
  • An employer diverts the employee to a “mommy track,” refusing to present them with opportunities for growth in the organization. 

The FMLA stipulates that employees returning from leave should be restored to their position or an equivalent position. It does not guarantee the employee’s exact role in the same location or department. 

It can be challenging to prove an employer’s actions were retaliatory or put the employee in a worse position. Retaliatory changes to an employee’s work environment may be subtle and go undetected for a long time. An experienced employment lawyer can help demonstrate how an employee has been harmed by their employer’s retaliatory actions.

Intermittent Leave 

Under the FMLA, employees need not take the full 12 weeks of leave all at once. The Act permits “intermittent” leave, including a reduced hourly schedule, intermittent days or weeks off, or other schedule accommodations. Intermittent leave situations often give rise to retaliation claims, especially where coworkers or supervisors perceive the employee to be “cherrypicking” good shifts or avoiding unpopular assignments.

In calculating how much leave an employee takes at each time, employers must use the shortest increment the employer uses to account for other types of leave: hours, half days, or full days or shifts. The shortest increment may vary during different times of day or shifts. (For example, a hospital may allow staff to take a half day of leave during their regular scheduled hours but require that they take an entire on-call shift.)

Required overtime not worked may count against an employee’s entitlement. (For example, if all employees must work three hours of overtime after a regular eight-hour shift, those three hours will count towards the amount of FMLA an employee has used if they take that shift off.)

There are also special rules about how physical impossibility, holidays, planned medical treatment, transfers, and situations involving spouses count towards the correct leave calculation. If you believe your FMLA leave has been miscalculated, consult with an experienced attorney.

Michigan’s Paid Medical Leave Act

Michigan’s Paid Medical Leave Act (MPMLA) took effect on March 29, 2019. This state law allows eligible employees to accrue and use 40 hours of paid leave time in a benefit year. The Act applies to any employer with 50 or more employees, regardless of whether the employees are in the state. Many significant exceptions reduce the number of eligible employees; the Act does not apply to executive, administrative, and professional overtime-exempt employees, employees covered by a private collective bargaining agreement, and government employees, among other groups.

Eligible employees accrue paid leave at a rate of 1 hour for every 35 actual hours worked; an employer is not required to allow accrual of over 1 hour in a calendar week or more than 40 hours in a benefit year. Employees can carry over up to 40 hours of leave from one year to the next unless their employer permits them to use the leave in advance (before it would naturally accrue).

Eligible employees can use this paid leave for the following reasons:

  • Physical or mental health injuries to themselves or their family members.
  • Medical care treatment, counseling, relocation, or participation in legal processes related to the qualifying party being the victim of sexual assault or domestic violence. 
  • The closure of the employee’s workplace due to a public health emergency, to care for a child whose place of care or school has been closed because of a public health emergency, or if health authorities determined that the employee or their family member needs to stay out of the public because of communicable disease exposure.

Employers who fail to comply with the Act may face fines and penalties from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. They may be liable for discrimination, retaliation, and other employment claims in a civil lawsuit.

Contact a Dedicated Michigan FMLA Attorney for Assistance Today

If you believe your employer violated your rights under the Family Medical Leave Act or the Michigan Paid Medical Leave Act, contact Sommers Schwartz, P.C. Our Michigan employment attorneys have decades of experience standing up for employees and protecting their rights.

If you have questions or concerns about your rights under the FMLA or MPMLA or believe you have received unfair treatment because of requesting or taking leave, contact the employment law attorneys at Sommers Schwartz to schedule a free consultation. You can reach us at 800-783-0989 or through our secure online contact form.

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