The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a crucial piece of legislation that allows qualifying employees to take time away from work without fear of losing their job to care for their or an immediate family member’s health. For a long time, employees were at risk of losing their jobs if they needed to take a significant amount of time off of work, but the FMLA fixes that. Now, employees have the right to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.
However, while these rights are significant, it’s equally important for employees to understand that these benefits should not be misused and that their employers may try to get in the way of employees utilizing them. Abusing FMLA privileges can lead to severe consequences, including termination of employment, and can undermine the system designed to support those genuinely in need. Therefore, it’s essential to use these rights responsibly and with integrity.
What Employers and Employees Can’t Do Under the FMLA
Both employers and employees need to be aware of the legal rights and responsibilities FMLA assures so that no one is accused of abusing or disrupting the system.
Illegal Actions for Employers
If you’re an employee, you need to be aware of how employers cannot legally interfere with your FMLA leave. This way, if they do, you can spot it and take legal action. The FMLA prohibits these actions by employers:
- Interference with Employee Rights: Employers cannot interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of any right provided under the FMLA. This includes actions such as writing up the employee for taking FMLA leave.
- Retaliation: Employers are not allowed to retaliate against an employee for using their FMLA rights. Retaliation can include threats, discipline, firing, demotion, suspension, or reduction in pay and benefits.
- Counting FMLA Leave Under “No Fault” Attendance Policies: FMLA leave cannot be counted under “no-fault” attendance policies. This can affect an employee’s overall sick days, which are supposed to be separate from the FMLA.
- Harassment: If an employer harasses an employee about their FMLA rights or leave, it may be considered a violation.
- With-holding: Denying an employee the right to return from FMLA leave.
Illegal Actions for Employees
While the FMLA provides protections to employees, it also has certain restrictions:
- Engage in Fraudulent Behavior: Employees are expected to provide truthful information when applying for FMLA leave. They should not misuse the leave for reasons other than those specified under the FMLA. Any fraudulent behavior can lead to termination.
- Not Providing Notice or Certification: Employees who need to take FMLA leave are required to give their employer 30 days advance notice when the need is foreseeable, and as much notice as possible when the need is unforeseeable. This rule is more important for instances where you could have given notice but didn’t. If you are unable to give notice, you can’t be punished. In most cases, certification from a medical professional explaining the need for FMLA leave will do.
- Exceeding the Allowable Leave: The FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. If an employee takes more than the allotted time, the employer is no longer obligated to return the employee to their exact position.
Remember that these are general guidelines and specific circumstances may vary. An employee can have their position changed to something equivalent to their old one if their original position is no longer available or has been changed.
Contact Barrett & Farahany If You Think Your Employer Has Broken FMLA Rules
All employees are entitled to utilize the rights granted to them under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If you believe your employer has or is trying to infringe upon these rights, the experienced attorneys at Barrett & Farahany can help you.
We are committed to ensuring that the rights given to employees by the FMLA are upheld, and will tirelessly work to get you the compensation you deserve. You should be able to benefit fully from the protections afforded by the FMLA. Contact us today for help.