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The American workplace can feel indifferent to the needs of workers at times, as companies often expect us to prioritize work over our personal lives. While the modern work environment might feel increasingly like a grind in which the workers receive less and less appreciation, the law protects workers when family and medical needs arise.
Working and earning to support your family is essential, and when you experience an injury or serious health condition that impacts your ability to work, your present and future can seem precarious. The same can be true if a family member is ill or otherwise needs your care. To protect your ability to care for yourself and your family in times of need without having to worry about losing your job, Congress passed the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Under the FMLA, many employers are required to provide their workers with up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave for certain, qualifying reasons. This leave is protected, meaning it is available to eligible workers without the risk of them losing their jobs during the time they are gone. Unfortunately, many employers do not understand their obligations under the FMLA —or they simply break the law. If you have any concerns about your rights under the FMLA, reach out to Haeggquist & Eck now at (619) 342-8000 for your free consultation to discuss your FMLA issue today.
When Can I Take FMLA Leave?
The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for three main reasons:
- To care for your own health or the health of a family member
- To take time to bond with a new member of your family
- To handle qualifying exigencies arising from the deployment of your family member who is in the Armed Forces.
The FMLA applies when all of the following are true:
- Your employer is a private company with 50 or more employees on payroll for at least 20 weeks in the preceding calendar year or your employer is a public agency or public or private elementary or secondary school of any size
- You work at a worksite where there are at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius
- You have worked for your employer for at least 12 months
- You have worked at least 1,250 hours within the 12 months immediately preceding your leave
Under the FMLA, a family member includes your spouse, son, daughter, or parent. Bonding time with a new family member includes a newborn biological child or a minor child placed with you for adoption or foster care.
What is a Serious Health Condition Under the FMLA?
A serious health condition entitling an employee to FMLA leave means an illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition that involves either: (1) inpatient care, or (2) continuing treatment by a health care provider. The inpatient care requirement is straightforward and means an overnight stay in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility and any subsequent treatment in connection with that inpatient care. The continuing treatment requirement, on the other hand, is much more complex.
Continuing treatment by a health care provider means any of the following:
- Incapacity and treatment – A period of incapacity (inability to work, attend school, or perform other regular daily activities) of more than three consecutive days, including any subsequent treatment, which also involves:
- In-person treatment by a health care provider two or more times, within 30 days of the first day of incapacity, and with the first treatment occurring within seven days of the first incapacity; or
- In-person treatment by a health care provider on at least one occasion within seven days of the first incapacity, which results in a regimen of continuing treatment under the supervision of the health care provider.
- Pregnancy or prenatal care – Any period of incapacity due to pregnancy, or for prenatal care.
- Chronic conditions – Any period of incapacity due to a chronic serious health condition that continues over an extended period of time, requires periodic visits (at least twice a year) for treatment by a health care provider, and may cause episodic rather than continuing incapacity such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, etc.
- Permanent or long-term conditions – A period of incapacity which is permanent or long-term due to a condition for which treatment may not be effective, such as Alzheimer’s, a severe stroke, or the terminal stages of a disease, and which requires continuing supervision by a health care provider.
- Conditions requiring multiple treatments – Any period of absence to receive multiple treatments by a health care provider for:
- Restorative surgery after an accident or other injury; or
- A condition that would likely result in a period of incapacity of more than three consecutive days in the absence of medical intervention or treatment, such as cancer (chemotherapy, radiation, etc.), severe arthritis (physical therapy), or kidney disease (dialysis).
What are Qualifying Exigencies Under the FMLA?
Employees with family members in the Armed Forces are also entitled to FMLA leave for qualifying exigencies that arise while that family member is on active duty or has been notified of an impending call to active duty. Qualifying exigencies include making alternative child care arrangements for a child of the deployed servicemember, attending certain military ceremonies and briefings, or making financial or legal arrangements to address the servicemember’s absence.
What Am I Entitled to Under the FMLA?
Eligible employees may take up to 12 workweeks of FMLA leave during any 12-month period to care for their own or their family member’s serious health condition, to take time to bond with a new family member, or to handle qualifying exigencies arising from the deployment of a family member.
This leave entitlement is increased to 26 workweeks within any 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember (spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin) with a serious injury or illness. A covered servicemember includes a current member of the Armed Forces (including in the National Guard or Reserves) and a veteran of the Armed Forces discharged within the last five years.
During FMLA leave, you can continue your group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as though you were not on leave. This provides you the ability to continue supporting your family by covering their healthcare needs while you are taking unpaid time off.
When you return from FMLA leave, you must be restored to the same job or to an
equivalent job, meaning a job that is virtually identical to your original job in terms of pay, benefits, and other employment terms and conditions (including shift and location).
What if My Employer Violated My FMLA Rights?
If your employer denied your request for FMLA leave, terminated or laid you off while you were on leave, or refused to give you back your job or an equivalent job after your leave ended, your FMLA rights may have been violated. The best way to find out for sure is to consult with an attorney who knows the law and has experience handling FMLA cases.
With decades of combined legal experience, the legal team of Haeggquist & Eck provides you the benefit of focusing on yourself and your family while we handle the process of recovering your rightful relief for FMLA violations. If you believe your rights have been violated, contact Haeggquist & Eck now at (619) 342-8000 for your free consultation to discuss your FMLA issue today.
Am I Covered by the Family Medical Leave Act?
This federal law applied to the following employees and employers:
- A private company of 50 or more employees on payroll for at least 20 weeks in a calendar year
- Any public agency of any size.
- Any public or private elementary or secondary school.
- Employees who have worked at least 1,250 hours before taking leave
- Employees who work somewhere within a 75-mile radius of the employer’s worksite when the employer has 50 or more employees
What If I Lose My Job While on Leave?
The purpose of the Family Medical Leave Act is to protect employees’ jobs when they take leave. You may be shocked to find the old position you occupied was filled during your absence, but your employer is legally obligated to provide a similar or equivalent position with equal pay and benefits as you had before you went on leave.
If your employer radically downgraded your position in the company after you took a leave of absence, or refuses to re-employ you, contact the Family Medical Leave Act attorneys in San Diego at Haeggquist & Eck, LLP immediately. We will fight for your right to seek fair and just compensation for lost wages, damages, and possible reinstatement if your employer violated federal law.
Call Haeggquist & Eck, LLP today at (619) 342-8000 for more information and discover how we can help.
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