Family and Medical Leave Act
Atlanta FMLA Attorney Protecting Workers Across Georgia
It's not easy to juggle the demands of work and family life. If you're working long hours and suddenly get sick, someone in your family gets sick, or you or your spouse need to take time off to care for your new baby, how can you get the time off from work to take care of your family's needs? If you're sick, your employer may have short or long-term disability policies that give you time off from work and pay you.
But not all employers offer these benefits. Even those that do, however, require you to satisfy stringent requirements showing that you are totally disabled from your job or from other types of work. So, if you're too sick to work, but not sick enough to qualify for a disability leave of absence, are you totally out of luck?
No. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may protect you.
The FMLA is a federal employment law that allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from their jobs annually in the following circumstances:
- For your own serious health condition;
- To care for your family members who have a serious health condition; and
- For the birth or care of a newborn or adopted child.
Find out if your leave is protected by FMLA. Request an evaluation at (404) 471-3725.
Are All Employees Covered by FMLA?
Unfortunately, not all employees are covered by the FMLA. There are several important eligibility requirements. First, you must have been employed by your employer for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year prior to the date of your leave. Second, your employer must have at least 50 employees either at the facility where you work, or a total of 50 employees located anywhere within a 75 mile radius of your workplace.
The next requirement is that you must have a serious health condition to be eligible for FMLA leave. Although this is a complex issue, typically this is either a condition that requires you to seek medical care and have an absence from work, a course of inpatient medical care, or a chronic condition that requires you to take time off from work for treatment.
You can take your time intermittently, that is, in short chunks of time either on a regularly scheduled basis, or as needed.
How to Take Leave
If you are eligible for FMLA leave, the first step in the process is asking your employer to take leave. Typically, this requires you to give, if possible, advance notice to your employer of your need for medical leave. Once you request leave, your employer can require you to submit medical or other documentation to support your need for leave. In certain cases, however, where you can't give advance notice, such as a medical emergency, you don't need to give notice in advance, but you must request leave as soon as possible after the emergency.
Once you're on leave, your employer can, in certain circumstances, request additional documentation from you. When you are ready to return from leave, your employer must restore you to your job at the same rate of pay and the same benefits.
What Protections Exist Under FMLA?
The FMLA protects you against adverse action in several ways. First, employers may not interfere with your right to take FMLA leave. This means that if you are eligible for FMLA leave, you have complied with all of your employer's notice requirements, and you have provided the necessary medical or other documentation, you are absolutely entitled to take leave. Your employer cannot interfere with that right by either denying your request for leave, or imposing other notice or disclosures beyond those required by the Act. Also, if your employer fails to restore you to your job after your FMLA leave, that would support an interference claim.
The FMLA also protects you against retaliation. If your employer retaliated against you for taking FMLA leave, or even simply for asking for leave, you may have a claim for FMLA retaliation.
Unlike Title VII, the FMLA does not require you to file a charge with the EEOC before filing suit. If your employer violates the FMLA, you have two years to file an FMLA lawsuit, or three years if you can show your employer's misconduct was willful.
The following damages are available to you if you succeed in your FMLA lawsuit:
- Lost wages and compensation;
- If you don't have any lost wages, you're still entitled to recover any other monetary losses you sustain due to the FMLA violation, up to an amount equal to 12 weeks of compensation;
- Liquidated damages in an amount equal to your actual losses;
- Equitable relief, such as reinstatement to your job or a promotion; and
- Attorneys' fees
The FMLA is an extremely complicated law with a number of detailed requirements, such as strict time limits, complicated notice obligations, and medical certification requirements. Unscrupulous employers will try to trip you up with these technicalities. Fortunately, the experienced employment attorneys of Buckley Beal have years of experience in dealing with the FMLA. Call us for help today.
Know Your Rights: Call (404) 471-3725
Whether you are considering requesting a leave of absence, getting ready to return to work from your leave, or your company has retaliated against you for requesting or taking leave, find out whether your FMLA rights have been violated. If you have any questions about the FMLA, or are concerned that your employer is not following the law, don't hesitate to reach out to our Atlanta FMLA lawyers at Buckley Beal.
You can reach us at (404) 471-3725.