Florida Injury and Employment Attorneys

Understanding FMLA & Your Rights

December 8, 2015

Working with an Tampa work discrimination attorney may be able to provide assistance if you believe you are the victim of workplace discrimination. In some cases, workers must miss work beyond the amount of approved sick leave or vacation time. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, you are protected to take unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks (either as a block or intermittently) within a one-year period. The FMLA also ensures that you will have a job after returning from your absence. If your original job is not available, you will be provided with an equivalent position. Military members and their families may leave for any “qualifying exigency” that occurs during a contingency operation. Other eligible employees may take a leave of up to 26 months within a one-year period if they are caring for a sick or injured member of the military. The leave must be approved based on family and medical reasons within the statute. These provisions are enforced by the federal government. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment Standards Administration, Wage and Hour Division enforces FMLA regulations for state and local government.

It is an unlawful for an employer to interfere with an employee’s FMLA rights. It is also illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for exercising their rights under the FMLA.

Eligible Employers

FMLA regulations are applicable across all state, local, and federal employers as well as school districts. Private sector employers are only covered if they have more than 50 employees for 20 or more workweeks throughout each calendar year. Tampa work discrimination attorneys may be able to help you determine whether your employer is eligible.

FMLA Employees

Not all employees qualify for FMLA leave. In order to be eligible, you must work for a covered employer, have been employed with that employer for at least one year before taking leave, and have worked at least 1,250 hours within the past year. Your job must also take place in a location with at least 50 employees within 75 miles. The one-year employment period does not have to be consecutive, but if there is a gap of seven or more years between periods of employment, you are not covered. Military members are exempt from this regulation as long as they are fulfilling National Guard or Reserve obligations.

Leave Reasons

FMLA only applies to specific reasons for taking leave. You are only eligible for 12 weeks of leave under FMLA if you are leaving due to the birth of your child, placement of a foster or adopted child, medical need of a spouse, child or parent, or a serious health condition of your own. Serious health conditions are defined in very specific terms. Employers may require the employee to utilize any remaining paid leave concurrently with FMLA leave. This does not increase the amount of FMLA leave available, but it does mean that you will be paid during the portion of FMLA leave where your paid leave runs concurrently.

Health Benefits

If you were covered by your employer’s health insurance before going on leave, the FMLA requires that your employer must continue to provide the same coverage during your time on leave. If you pay a portion of your own health insurance, you must continue doing so while on leave.

Returning to Work

Once your FMLA leave comes to an end, your employer must restore you to your original position or a position of equivalent benefits and pay. Your employer is not allowed to base employment decisions on your decision to take leave. You are also entitled to any bonuses earned before your leave. However, you are not entitled to bonuses that you may have earned if you were not on FMLA leave. Employers may choose to refuse to reinstate “key employees” at high levels of pay within the company.

Notification Requirements

You are required to give your employer 30 days of notice whenever possible. If this is not possible due to an emergency or sudden illness, you must provide notice as soon as possible or practicable. You should also give your employer the information it needs to determine if your requested leave is eligible under FMLA. If this is your first time requesting leave, you do not have to declare your intention to take FMLA leave. However, if this is your second request, you are required to refer to the qualifying need for FMLA leave. If your employer is covered by FMLA, he or she must post an approved notice explaining all FMLA responsibilities and rights. This should also be included in any employee handbooks and written resources. Otherwise, employers must distribute the notice after an employee is hired. Our Tampa work discrimination attorneys may provide assistance if you were not properly notified of FMLA. After requesting leave, your employer must inform you that you are eligible to take FMLA leave even if you were not aware of the FMLA. Once your employer has determined that your leave is qualified, he or she must inform you that taking leave will count towards your FMLA allowance.

Medical Certification

Your employer can request medical certification before approving leave in some situations. Your direct supervisor is not allowed to verify a medical certification, but a health care provider or administrator may be eligible to do so. This process can require medical certification of the serious health condition of the employee or employee’s family member. A second or third opinion may also be requested in some cases, as well as certification that you can safely resume your former job after taking FMLA leave. If you believe that your FMLA leave was denied unfairly, Tampa work discrimination attorneys may be able to provide you with legal representation.

Contact an Tampa Work Discrimination Attorney

For more information on the FMLA and how it affects your right to medical leave, contact Florin Gray Bouzas Owens, LLC at (727) 254-5255 today. While employers are required to approve FMLA leave requests if all federal guidelines are met, discrimination does occur, leaving many employees unjustly terminated or refused the leave they need. Under most circumstances an employer is not allowed to refuse you continued employment for taking approved FMLA leave of which the employer was properly notified. Working with an Tampa work discrimination attorney may help you determine if you are eligible to take medical leave to care for yourself or a sick or injured loved one.

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