Family and Medical Leave Protection In Employment

Employees sometimes face the difficult choice of providing for their families or being with their families in a time of need. Congress attempted to help with this choice in the Family and Medical Leave Act. The FMLA provides eligible employees up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for certain qualifying events.

An employee is eligible if he or she (1) has worked for the employer for at least one year and, during that time, the employee performed at least 1,250 hours of work, and (2) the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of the employee's worksite. An eligible employee of an eligible employer must be granted up to twelve weeks unpaid leave during a one-year period:

  • For the birth and care of a newborn child;
  • For placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care;
  • To care for a spouse, child, or parent suffering from a "serious health condition";
  • For a "serious health condition" that renders the employee unable to perform his or her job;
  • For a qualifying emergency arising from the active military duty of the employee's spouse, child, or parent; and
  • To care for the employee's spouse, child, or parent who becomes seriously ill or injured due to active military duty (such leave may be extended up to 26 weeks)

When an individual takes qualifying FMLA leave, he or she is entitled to be restored to his or her job or to a job that is similar in terms of skills, rank, and pay so long as the employee is able to return to work within twelve weeks. The employee must be restored to work upon a simple certification by his treating doctor that he is fit to work. Employers cannot require second opinions or examinations by a company doctor before allowing an employee to return to work. Further, if an employee's doctor certifies her as fit to work, the employer may not inquire into health conditions other than the condition that caused the employee to need medical leave before allowing her to return to work.

Employers that refuse to restore an employee to work despite the employee's certification as fit to work may be held liable for violating the FMLA. The employee may be entitled to reinstatement to his or her job or to damages for lost wages plus "liquidated damages" in the amount of the lost wages.

If you believe you have been denied your FMLA rights, call Sullenger Law Office at (270) 443-9401 to schedule a consultation so we can evaluate your case and discuss what we can do to help you.

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