Hello, I’m Dan Swanson, a partner at the law firm Sommers Schwartz. For more than 30 years, I’ve been representing people whose jobs have been jeopardized because of a personal or family medical issue. None of us plan to get sick or injured. But if we do and it’s serious, we may need to take time off work and to focus on recovery without fear of losing their jobs or our medical insurance. This is especially true when we’re dealing with a serious health condition such as cancer, heart ailments, chronic illnesses like diabetes or asthma, a severe injury due to an accident, or a mental condition such as depression. There are also times when a happy event, like the birth of a child or an adoption, requires us to take time off work.
Fortunately, federal law provides protection for people who need time off for medical and family issues, either their own or within their immediate families. One such law is the Family and Medical Leave Act, which is popularly known here as the FMLA. This important law gives Americans the right to take time off work and to get the care and treatment they need without fear of losing their jobs and medical insurance. Under the FMLA law, you’re eligible to take up to 12 weeks a year of unpaid leave to deal with a serious health condition that makes you unable to perform your job. You are also entitled to an FMLA leave for the following additional reasons– care for your spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition; give birth to or care for newborn child; care for a child who’s been placed with you for adoption or foster care; care for your spouse, child, or parent who has suffered an injury or illness while in active military service.
Although leaves are not paid under FMLA, your employer must continue your medical insurance during your leave. FMLA leave is available to most employees. Some employees may not be eligible for an FMLA leave because their employer has less than 50 workers or they are new on the job and have not worked enough hours during the 12 months before making their FMLA leave request. If you are entitled to an FMLA leave, you need to provide proper notice to your employer and medical certification or other documentation. FMLA leaves don’t have to be taken all at one time. They can be taken intermittently, a day or two a week as needed, or as part of a reduced work schedule.
What’s really important is that when you return to work after an FMLA leave, your employer must place you in your former position or an equivalent job with the same pay, benefits, and working conditions that you had before. Over the course of my 30 years of representing people with employment issues, I’ve seen how important a leave of absence can be to people struggling with an illness or medical condition or to parents who need the time to be with a newborn child or to care for a sick spouse or child. I’ve also seen employers wrongfully refuse to grant employees leave requests or unlawfully discriminate or retaliate against employees who’ve taken FMLA leave.
I have successfully represented people with all sorts of serious health conditions, like heart surgery, depression, or knee replacement, who are fired, either upon requesting an FMLA leave, or immediately upon returning from an FMLA leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act is there for us when we need it, and hopefully you won’t. If you’ve requested a medical or other leave, and your request was improperly denied or you were fired, discriminated against, or the subject of retaliation because you were off of work on an FMLA leave, you need to take action quickly. I encourage you to consult with me today to discuss your situation, and to learn how Sommers Schwartz can help you.