Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993
Baird Quinn LLC represents clients in investigations and court actions under The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”). The FMLA was designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons. The FMLA provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that the employee’s group health benefits be maintained during the leave. In 2008, the FMLA was amended to provide up to 26 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leaves to family members in the military.
FMLA applies to all public and private employers with 50 or more employees. These employers must provide an eligible employee with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for any of the following reasons:
- For the birth and care of the newborn child of an employee;
- For placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care;
- To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent — but not a parent “in-law”) with a serious health condition;
- When the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition;
- To care for an injured service member in the family; or
- To address qualifying exigencies arising out of a family member’s deployment.
See FMLA-Qualifying-Reasons-for-Leave. The FMLA further requires employers to provide for eligible workers:
- Restoration to the same position upon return to work. If the same position is unavailable, the employer must usually provide the worker with a position that is substantially equal in pay, benefits, and responsibility.
- Protection of employee benefits during the covered leave. An employee is entitled to reinstatement of all benefits to which the employee was entitled before going on leave.
The FMLA does not extend protections to all employees, such as:
- Workers in businesses with fewer than 50 employees (this threshold does not apply to public agency employers and local educational agencies);
- Part-time workers who have worked less than 1,250 hours within the 12 months preceding the leave;
- Workers who need time off to care for seriously ill elderly relatives or pets;
- Workers who need time off to recover from short-term or common illness like a cold, or to care for a family member with a short-term illness; and
- Workers who need time off for routine medical care, such as check-ups.
Both employees and employers have notice requirements under the FMLA. An employer is required to provide employees with notice of their eligibility and rights under the FMLA. See FMLA-Employer-Notification-Requirements. An employee must provide advance notice (if possible) and a properly completed Certification of Health Care Provider form (if requested). FMLA-Employee-Notice-Requirements; FMLA-Certification-Serious-Health-Condition.
Upon return from FMLA leave, an employee must ordinarily be restored to the employee’s original job, or to an equivalent job with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. Further, an employee’s use of FMLA leave cannot result in the loss of any employment benefit that the employee earned or was entitled to before using FMLA leave, nor be counted against the employee under a “no fault” attendance policy. In sum, an employer may not penalize an employee for taking protected medical leave.
Under the FMLA, it is unlawful for any employer to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of any right provided by the FMLA. It is also unlawful for an employer to discharge or discriminate against any individual for opposing any practice, or because of involvement in any proceeding, related to the FMLA.
The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor investigates FMLA complaints. If the DOL finds a violation, the Department of Labor may bring action in court to compel compliance and recover damages. Individuals may also be able to bring a private civil action against an employer for violations. An aggrieved employee who prevails in a FMLA action may recover all lost wages and benefits resulting from the FMLA violations, plus “liquidated damages” of twice the back pay losses, and attorneys’ fees and costs. Baird Quinn LLC’s FMLA attorneys have prosecuted and defended many such FMLA actions.
The Department of Labor has published a fact sheet relating to FMLA, which may be accessed through the following link. See DOL-Fact-Sheet-FMLA
Baird Quinn LLC has significant experience assisting clients with issues under the Family and Medical leave Act. Please feel free to contact our Colorado labor and employment lawyers to discuss your FMLA leave, FMLA rights, FMLA compliance and/or litigation issues. You may use the following link to obtain additional information regarding our Denver FMLA lawyers.