Whether you or a loved one is suffering from serious health problems or if you need to request leave related to birth or adoption of a child, there are laws which entitle certain employees to take leave from work for these reasons and protect these workers from retaliation by an employer. While most states do not require employers to provide paid sick leave, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) makes it mandatory for larger employers to provide eligible workers unpaid time off for health and caregiving reasons.
If employers have 50 or more employees, they must comply with the FMLA guidelines. In order to take FMLA leave, employees must have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months. During the 12 months prior to your leave starting, you need to have worked at least 1,250 hours.
FMLA leave is only available for the following reasons:
- An employee needs to bond with a new child
- An employee has a serious health condition
- An employee needs to provide care for a family member with a serious illness
- An employee needs to provide care for a family member who was seriously injured in active military duty
- An employee needs to provide help out of a family member’s call to active military duty
Family members consist of only parents, spouses, and children regarding most categories of FMLA leave. However, take care of siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, and cousins can apply for military caregiver leave.
A serious health condition is a condition, injury, illness, or impairment involving inpatient care, permanent or long-term incapacity, incapacity for over three full days with continuing care by a medical professional, incapacity due to treatment for a chronic serious health condition, incapacity due to pregnancy or prenatal care, or absences for multiple treatments for a condition which would cause incapacity for more than three days if untreated.
Employers are prohibited from firing, demoting, or taking any other adverse action against employees who exercise their right to FMLA leave. Adverse actions can also include moving the employer to a different role in the company or revoking their health insurance. If an employer commits an adverse action against a worker due to taking protected FMLA leave, it may be held accountable for violation of the employee’s rights.
If you feel like you’ve been discriminated against due to taking FMLA leave, there are various routes you can take. If you are a member of a union, you can file a grievance with your company or contact the shop steward to find out if you have any special union arrangements with your company.
You can also contact human resources to voice your concerns. But be careful, an HR manager may be more concerned about the company’s best interests rather than yours.
The best option you have is to contact an employment lawyer. Due to the complexities of employment law, an attorney can explain all of their intricacies and provide advice that are in your best interests. So if you are experiencing harassment or retaliation due to FMLA leave, or if you have been fired, a lawyer can help you sue your employer for damages.