The Family and Medical Leave Act was designed to help employees balance responsibilities at work and at home. A federal law, FMLA grants certain workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off in the event that they or a family member experiences a qualifying health condition. Although companies are barred from terminating or otherwise penalizing workers who take FMLA leave, not all employers abide by the spirit of this law. If you feel that your employer retaliated against you for taking FMLA leave, don’t hesitate to contact a Phoenix employment lawyer for help protecting your rights.

What Is the FMLA?

Under the terms of the Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible employees may be entitled to take up to 12 week of unpaid leave each year. During this period, a worker’s job is protected, meaning that the company can’t fire them, demote them, or otherwise penalize them for taking time off. Moreover, the employee continues to receive group health benefits during this period.

Not all health conditions and life circumstances enable an employee to take time off under the FMLA. To qualify for unpaid, job-protected leave, workers must experience one of the following:

  • Giving birth to or caring for a newborn child
  • Adopting or fostering a child
  • Suffering from a serious health condition
  • Caring for a close family member (spouse, parent, or child) with a serious medical condition

Employees must meet certain standards to qualify for FMLA leave. The law applies only to workers at companies with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile region. Additionally, employees must have worked for the company for a period of 12 months and put in at least 1,250 hours during that time. 

FMLA Violation Cases

If an employer retaliated against you after you used or requested FMLA-related leave, you may choose to file a lawsuit to protect your rights. Below are examples of ways in which companies may penalize workers in FMLA cases:

  • Terminating workers
  • Demoting workers
  • Discriminating against a worker based on the health condition that led them to take leave
  • Discriminating based on the substance abuse issue that led the employee to take leave
  • Denying or failing to recognize FMLA requests
  • Requiring more than the 30 days’ notice mandated by the law
  • Asking employees to work while on leave
  • Verbally abusing workers who take leave

It’s important to note that employers are required to return workers to their previous jobs with the same or equivalent duties, pay, and benefits after FMLA leave ends. If you think your employer has violated your rights, contacting an employment law attorney is the best way to protect your finances and your career.

How to Prove FMLA Interference

Employees may file claims based on FMLA Interference or FMLA Retaliation. For cases of FMLA Interference, employees need to prove that they were eligible for leave, that their employer is covered for FMLA, and that they were entitled to take leave. Additionally, workers must demonstrate that they notified their employer of their intention to take FMLA leave, and that the employer denied their request. 

On the other hand, FMLA Retaliation claims involve workers whose employers penalized them for requesting or taking leave. To prove this violation, employees have to show that they were engaged in a statutorily protected activity, that the employer took adverse job actions against them, and that their involvement in the activity led directly to the adverse action.

Employees have a period of two years from the date of interference to file a suit for FMLA violations. In the event that the employer’s interference is deemed to be willful, the worker has three years to file.

Damages in FMLA Cases

Employees who prove FMLA interference or FMLA Retaliation may be entitled to monetary damages. These awards are intended to make up for losses and injuries a worker endured as a result of their employer’s actions. Depending on the specifics of the case, the court may award the employee back pay, including wages and benefits lost due to the employer’s violations. Additionally, employees may qualify for front pay, referring to wages and benefits lost in the future, such as from an inability to secure a new position. Note that the FMLA does not allow workers to recover punitive damages or damages due to emotional distress.

Contact Our Employment Law Specialists Today

As businesses flock to Phoenix and the surrounding towns, the need for skilled employment law attorneys is also rising. Fortunately, our attorneys are on hand to assist workers with a wide range of labor and employment issues. Whether you’re dealing with a FMLA leave matter or another workplace issue, our team can evaluate your case and advise you on next steps. To learn more about what we do, call today or schedule a consultation on our website.