Enforcing the Protections Offered by FMLA
The Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. (the “FMLA”), requires certain employers to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave during a 12-month period. The FMLA also requires that group health benefits be maintained during the leave period.
To preserve the availability of these rights and to enforce them, the FMLA creates two types of claims: interference claims (in which an employee asserts that the employer denied or otherwise interfered with the employee’s substantive rights under the FMLA), and retaliation claims (in which an employee asserts that the employer discriminated against the employee because the employee engaged in activity protected by the FMLA).
In order to establish an interference claim, an employee need only demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the employee was entitled to a benefit that was denied. Krutzig v. Pulte Home Corp., 602 F.3d 1231, 1235 (11th Cir. 2010). To succeed on a retaliation claim, an employee must show that the employer intentionally discriminated against the employee for exercising a right under the FMLA. Martin v. Brevard Cty. Pub. Sch., 543 F.3d 1261, 1267 (11th Cir. 2008). Therefore, unlike with an interference claim, with retaliation claims, an employee faces the increased burden of showing that the employer’s actions were motivated by an impermissible retaliatory or discriminatory animus.
FMLA leave is available:
- for the birth and care of the newborn child of an employee;
- for placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care;
- to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition;
- to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition;
- for qualifying exigencies that arise when the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is on covered active duty or has been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty; or
- to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness (for up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave).
Employees are generally eligible for leave if they have worked for their employer: (1) at least 12 months, (2) at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and (3) at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius.
The 12 months of employment requirement do not have to be consecutive in order for an employee to qualify for FMLA leave. In general, only employment within seven years is counted unless the break in service is: (1) due to an employee’s fulfillment of military obligations, or (2) governed by a collective bargaining agreement or other written agreement. The 1,250 hours include only those hours actually worked by the employee, which means that paid leave and unpaid leave, sick time, and vacation time are not counted towards the 1,250 hour requirement.
Lawyers from BT Law Group have extensive experience advising clients about, and litigating, claims of interference and retaliation under the FMLA. If you believe your rights have been violated under the FMLA, please contact the attorneys at BT Law Group for a consultation.