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How the FMLA protects workers and what happens after a violation

On Behalf of | Aug 9, 2022 | Employment Law

Before the implementation of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), companies did not have to accommodate workers who had unexpected hardships in their personal lives. Someone could work for the same business for an entire decade and then lose their job because they needed to undergo chemotherapy treatment.

The FMLA put a stop to that. By creating a system that allows for unpaid leave and makes it illegal to discriminate against workers who require that leave, the FMLA helped ensure that people can balance their real-world needs with the demands of their employment. Learning a bit more about the basics of the FMLA will help you make use of those rights.

Does the FMLA apply to all businesses?

The FMLA generally only applies to businesses with at least 50 employees. Including a minimum size for the applicability of the law helps ensure that accommodating a worker’s leave of absence won’t cause undue hardship for the company.

Does the FMLA apply to every employee?

For the FMLA to apply to a specific worker, they need to have worked for the company for at least a year prior. They will also need to have accrued at least 1,250 hours of work during that time.

When can a worker ask for FMLA leave?

There are only three categories of circumstances that qualify for unpaid leave under the FMLA. The first is when the worker themselves has a medical condition that requires treatment or recovery.

The second category is family needs. If a spouse, child or parent requires intensive medical support, an employee can request to leave of absence to care for that family member. Finally, the FMLA offers leave for those who have just had a child, secured foster placement into their home or adopted someone.

What can you do about an FMLA violation?

The first thing you need to do when you feel like your employer has not accommodated an appropriate request for leave is to ensure that you have complied with their internal practices. You will want to maintain your own records of when you submitted your request and how the company responded, as well as what justification they gave for declining your request.

All of that information will play a role later when you move to hold the company accountable. Sometimes, workers can make their employers more cooperative by bringing in a lawyer. Other times, they may actually need to go to court to hold their employer accountable for a violation of their rights. In court, you could secure compensation for any losses you suffered, reinstatement to a position or even an order affirming your need for unpaid leave.

Understanding your basic rights as someone who needs time off under the protection of the FMLA will help you make use of the employment laws there for your well-being.