Recovering from an illness or injury or helping a family member through their recovery is never easy. From the doctor’s appointments to the test of your personal relationships, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Unfortunately, some employers decide to make a bad situation worse by retaliating against workers who take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to take the time they need to care for themselves or their loved ones. This crucial federal regulation protects the rights of many workers to take up to 12 weeks’ time off work per year for personal or family medical purposes.
If you are eligible for leave under the FMLA and your employer has demoted, fired, or otherwise punished you for taking that leave, they have violated your rights under the law, and you may be entitled to compensation. An experienced Charlotte and Lake Norman family and medical leave attorney from Harman Law can help you fight for your rights and increase your chances of holding your employer accountable. If you are an employer working on internal policies concerning family and medical leave, Harman Law is also happy to provide you with counsel to help ensure that you are complying with the law.
Understanding the Right to Family and Medical Leave
The FMLA guarantees that employees who take a reasonable amount of time off to care for a family member or recover from an illness or injury will not lose their jobs. Under the law, eligible employees have the right to take 12 weeks off per year for family and medical purposes. It is important to note that this time is unpaid. While some employers may offer paid sick or maternity leave as a benefit of employment if they so choose, they are not required to do so by law. What they are required to do is allow the employee to return to work once their leave is over and to not punish them in any way for taking the leave. Here are the specific situations in which you can take leave under the FMLA if you are an eligible employee:
- Childbirth and caring for your newborn child
- Placement of a foster child in your home or adopting a child
- Caring for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious medical condition
- Recovering from a serious medical condition
These are the only circumstances in which the FMLA will protect your right to leave. Note that the FMLA does not protect your right to care for an ailing relative outside your immediate family, or to take more than 12 weeks for recovery. If you are unsure whether your reason for leave falls under the FMLA’s protections, an experienced North Carolina family and medical leave attorney from Harman Law can help you determine whether you may be eligible for leave.
Who is an eligible employee under the FMLA?
While a large number of employees nationwide are eligible for FMLA protections, there are some exceptions. If you are not covered by the FMLA in your current employment situation, you will have to rely on whatever leave your employer is willing to give you. You are an eligible employee under the FMLA if you work for:
- Any public agency
- A primary or secondary school, whether public or private
- A company with at least 50 employees
Also, you must have been at your current job for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,260 hoursover the past year. Your employer must also employ at least 50 people within 75 miles of where you work.
For employees of mid-sized businesses in particular, in can be difficult to know whether their company falls under the FMLA’s protections, as they may have never given any thought to whether or not their company employs 50 people. If you are uncertain whether your working situation entitles you to FMLA protections, a Charlotte/Lake Norman area family and medical leave lawyer from Harman Law can help you determine if you are eligible.
Bringing a Claim against an Employer who has Violated your FMLA Rights
There are two primary ways an employer can violate the FMLA. The first is to deny an eligible employee the right to take leave in the first place. This is called interference. The second is to punish an employee who has already taken leave, whether by firing them, demoting them, cutting their pay or hours, or some other means. This is called retaliation.
Whether your employer violated your rights through interference or retaliation, you can seek compensation for the harm they’ve done you by bringing a claim against them. If successful, you could recover damages for a number of costs, including:
- Wages, benefits, or other monetary loss you suffered after facing interference or retaliation
- Interest on the money you lost
- Reinstatement or re-promotion to your job, if that is practical for your situation
- Attorney and court fees you paid fighting your claim
- Liquidated damages equal to the amount of money you lost
Holding your employer liable for FMLA violations can help you recover much-needed compensation, but you will have to make a strong case against your employer to do so. An experienced family and medical leave lawyer can help you put together the evidence to prove that your employer violated the FMLA and how much you suffered as a result.
Ensuring Compliance as an Employer
It can be difficult to understand all the nuances of the FMLA as they apply to your workplace, especially for growing small businesses. Harman Law also provides services to employers who are seeking to make sure their internal leave policies comply with the FMLA to respect their workers’ rights and avoid future litigation.
Whether you are an employee bringing a claim against your employer or an employer who wants to do the right thing, experience and dedication count when you are looking for a lawyer. As a dedicated employment law firm in North Carolina, Harman Law has an intricate knowledge of federal and state employment law and what it means for family and medical leave. For more information on how our Charlotte and Lake Norman area family and medical leave lawyers can help, call us now at (704) 885-5550.