The Family and Medical Leave Act
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from work to deal with medical issues for themselves or their families.
There are 3 kinds of legal claims that employees may have against employers for violation of the FMLA:
- interference; and
You might have an entitlement claim against your employer under the FMLA if you’re eligible for medical leave but your company won’t let you take it.
Employees have FMLA interference claims against their employers if the employer tries to interfere with the employee taking leave – by putting up unnecessary roadblocks; threatening them regarding potential consequences of taking medical leave; or trying to give them work or additional things to do while the employee is on FMLA leave.
You might have an FMLA retaliation claim if your employer retaliated against you in any way for taking medical leave – by firing you; reducing your pay; giving you a different, lesser position when you come back; or reducing your hours.
Am I eligible for FMLA medical leave? Who is eligible for FMLA?
There are 3 requirements for employees to be eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act:
- You need to have been employed with your company for at least 12 months;
- You need to have worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months (that’s about at least 2/3 time); and
- Your employer needs to be big enough that it employs at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius of your worksite.
For a free legal consultation with a family and medical leave act lawyer serving Minneapolis, call 612-349-2729
What do I need to do to get medical leave under the FMLA?
If you’re eligible for FMLA – see above – and you need to take medical leave for yourself or to care for your family, then you need to tell your employer.
You need to clearly tell your employer that you need medical leave for yourself or to care for your family. You don’t need to specifically mention the word “FMLA,” but you do need to give clear notice to your employer that you need medical leave. Ideally, you should do this in writing – like in an email – so there can be no argument later about whether you gave your employer proper notice.
Then, you need to comply with your employer’s reasonable requests for information. For example, they may ask for a doctor’s note, or ask you or your doctor to fill out certain forms. Fill them out promptly and get them back to your employer.
Minneapolis Family and Medical Leave Act Lawyer Near Me 612-349-2729
How much FMLA leave do I get per year?
You get 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. For intermittent medical leave, employees get the same amount: 480 hours per year (12 weeks x 40 hours per week).
Do I get paid when I’m on medical leave?
No. Neither the FMLA or Minnesota Pregnancy and Parenting Leave Act mandate that employers provide paid sick leave.
So the law doesn’t require your employer to provide paid leave. But your employer might just be generous enough to provide some amount of paid leave on its own: for example, some employers provide some amount of paid maternity or paternity leave when you have a child.
What forms do I need to fill out for FMLA leave?
Just fill out whatever forms your employer gives you for its process. It might give you some forms for your doctor to fill out too – make sure that you fill out all these forms on time and get them in. If you fail to do so, your employer could argue that you failed to comply with its reasonable leave policies, and then either deny you leave or retaliate against you for taking it.
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Does medical leave include pregnancy, maternity, and paternity leave?
Yes. If you’re eligible for FMLA – see above – then you can use it for medical leave for yourself or to take care of your family.
What is intermittent FMLA medical leave?
Employees can take FMLA leave on an “intermittent” basis or on a “reduced leave schedule.” Intermittent FMLA leave is taken in separate blocks of time for a single illness or injury. A reduced leave schedule reduces an employee’s usual number of working hours per workweek, or hours per workday. It can be a change in the employee’s schedule for a period of time, normally from full-time to part-time.
You’re entitled to intermittent FMLA leave when you’ve got a “serious health condition” that renders you unable to do your job, or when an employee needs to care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent with a serious health condition.
Employees have to give 30 days’ notice for intermittent FMLA medical leave that’s foreseeable that far in advance, or as much notice as possible if it’s not possible to give 30 days notice.
The total amount of medical leave you have under intermittent FMLA leave is the same as normal FMLA leave: 12 weeks in a 12 month period – it’s deducted as it’s used.
Is medical leave the same thing as short term disability leave?
It depends. Employers sometimes use these terms interchangeably and incorrectly.
If an employee is injured on the job, employers will sometimes put him or her on “short term disability.” That’s fine and appropriate. But it the employee is eligible for FMLA (has worked there 12 months, at least 1,250 hours, and employer has more than 50 employees), then the “short term disability” leave may also count as FMLA leave – and count against the 12 weeks of available FMLA leave.
That can be both good and bad. The law doesn’t mandate or protect short term disability leave, but it does mandate and protect FMLA leave. So if your employer puts you on short term disability and then decides to terminate you after 6 weeks, you’ll have FMLA legal claims for interference and entitlement against your employer even though it didn’t call your leave “FMLA” and instead called it “short term disability.”
The law says that once your employer is on notice that you’ve got a medical condition that qualifies you for FMLA leave, it needs to understand that and comply with the requirements of FMLA.
On the other hand, if your employer puts you on short term disability but you don’t qualify for FMLA (because you haven’t been there for 12 months, worked for 1,250 hours, or your employer doesn’t have at least 50 employees), then you’re not protected and your employer can terminate you at any time – even if it told you that you’re on short term disability.
How Do I Prove an FMLA Violation Employment Claim?
Entitlement and Interference Claims
These lawsuits are pretty straightforward. As plaintiff employment lawyers, we first will prove that you were “entitled” to take the FMLA leave by showing that you had worked at your company for at least 1 year; had worked at least 1,250 hours in the past year; and your employer had at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius of your worksite. This is pretty easy.
Then we need to show that you gave your employer proper notice that you needed medical leave. This can be through your testimony that you told your employer you needed medical leave for yourself or to care for a family member. Or it can be through an email that you sent notifying your employer, or even through constructive notice to your employer, such as notice that you were injured on the job and required medical care. Again, this is relatively straightforward.
Next, we proceed to show that your employer either denied you leave or interfered in some other way with you taking leave. Examples of interference include: making threats to you about what will happen if you take leave; telling you not to take leave; or trying to give you work to do while you’re on leave. If we can show any of these things, then you’ve made an FMLA entitlement or interference claim.
Proving an FMLA retaliation claim is very similar to proving up other employment discrimination claims.
Your employer will probably make up and offer a different, non-illegal reason for termination (other than it terminated you or demoted you because you took medical leave). For example, your employer might claim that it terminated you for poor performance, or say that it underwent “restructuring.” In order to win on your FMLA retaliation claim, employment lawyers have to prove that the reason offered by the employer is a pretextual reason that is just being said so that your employer can avoid having to say the actual, illegal reason for termination – it was upset that you took protected medical leave under the FMLA.
We’ve got a couple ways to prove pretext on behalf of employees. First, we try to demonstrate that the reason given by the employer is just factually wrong. So, for example, if your employer claims that it terminated you for poor performance, but actually gave you high performance reviews for a number of years and has no written records of ever giving you discipline or counseling, then we’ve created a fact question for a jury regarding whether the reason given by the employer is the real reason for termination, or just pretext to mask retaliation.
Second, we can prove that the reason given by the employer isn’t the real reason for termination because it wasn’t equally applied to similarly situated employees. So, if your employer claims that it terminated you for poor performance, but your peers actually had equal or worse performance reviews than you – or documented performance problems that you didn’t have – than we’ve created a fact issue regarding whether the employer’s stated reason for termination is the actual reason, or just pretext to mask FMLA retaliation.
Can My Employer Fire Me if I Apply for FMLA or Make an FMLA Claim?
No. The FMLA contains an anti-retaliation provision, and so does the Minnesota Pregnancy and Parenting Leave Act. If your employer terminates you for applying for medical leave – or for complaining that it’s not handling your medical leave request in accord with the law – then you’ve got a retaliation case.
How Much is My FMLA Case Worth?
This is absolutely a good question to ask as you make a decision on whether to pursue a case in court or not. Starting an employment case is a big decision and you should know what your potential return is for the investment of your time and energy.
The short answer is that the value of your case depends on a lot of things, like:
- the strength of your case on the merits;
- the amount of damages you’ve suffered;
- whether your employer has the ability to pay a large amount; and
- your tolerance for risk.
We get this question so much that we’ve created a separate, detailed page going through each of these factors, right here.
Minneapoolis FMLA Lawyers Gets Results
We represented a woman, “Sarah,” who worked for a health care provider for 12 years. Sarah suffered a workplace injury when she caught a falling patient. She was still able to work, and did so for 5 years. However, she aggravated her back injury in 2014 when she was aiding another patient. Her doctor told her that she needed time off work to recover from her injury.
After Sarah had used about 8 weeks of her 12 available weeks of FMLA, she was cleared to return to wokr. However, when she tried to come back, her employer told he that she was terminated because she had “used up” all of her FMLA.
This was an interference and entitlement claim against Sarah’s employer, because Sarah was entitled to 12 weeks of medical leave, but the employer only allowed her 8 weeks of leave before terminating her.
The case settled after depositions but before summary judgment for $200,000.
What Damages are Available Under the FMLA?
For FMLA claims, you may be entitled to back pay and front pay damages, liquidated damages, and your attorney fees and costs. Liquidated damages means that you get to multiply your actual monetary damages (back and front pay) by 2 (that means you get twice what you’re owed in wages). Unfortunately, the FMLA does not allow for the recovery of emotional distress or punitive damages.
What’s an Average Settlement for an FMLA Case?
That’s a tough question to answer because there’s really no “average” settlement. The value of an employment case depends on the strength of the case; the damages the employee suffered; the ability of the employer to pay a large amount (if the employer is insured, even better); and the employee’s tolerance for risk and willingness to go to trial. Here’s a detailed breakdown of those factors.
What Should I do if My Employer Won’t Give Me FMLA Medical Leave or Terminated Me for Taking FMLA?
First of all, if you’re searching for answers right now, we’re very sorry that you’re in this position. We know how tough it is to lose your job, especially when you’ve got family and other financial obligations. It’s especially frustrating and hurtful when the termination is discriminatory.
Second, make sure that take advantage of state benefits designed to help people going through tough times. Apply for unemployment benefits. And, contact COBRA to make sure you and your family are covered for health insurance.
Third, write everything down that happened to you. Write down the date that you were terminated, who terminated you, what they precisely said was the reason for your termination, and who else was present. Write down whether you think the reason your employer gave you was accurate or not, and why. Write down the names of employees that you think may have useful information. Write down the types of documents or emails that you think may have good information about your case. Write down everything – the reason for this is that your memory will probably fade over time and you want to document things while they’re fresh in your mind. If you pursue a lawsuit, your trial likely won’t be for at least 12 to 18 months, so you want to have something that you can refer to – write everything down.
Fourth, immediately send a letter or email request to your employer requesting your personnel file and the reason for your termination. Under Minnesota law, your employer needs to provide it to you. If your employer hasn’t paid you all of your wages or given you your last paycheck, make sure to request those wages in writing also (by letter or email).
Fifth, call us to talk about your case.
What is the Statute of Limitations for an FMLA Case?
The FMLA is subject to a statute of limitations: this means that you must file suit within 2 years of the last action (termination, interference, denial of FMLA leave, retaliation, etc.) that you believe violated the FMLA. The statute of limitations is extended to 3 years if the employee can show that the employer willfully violated the FMLA.
Contact Our FMLA Attorneys.
You must act quickly when it comes to employment claims. If you wait, there may be strict statutes of limitation that will bar you from filing any claim at all against your employer. Call Madia today to discuss your case.
First, contact our office and tell us about your situation. You’ll talk with our staff for about 5-10 minutes. They’ll get some basic information about you and your case.
There’s some information that we’ll need when you call. We will want to know who you worked for, what kind of work you did, for how long worked there, how much you earned, if/when you were terminated, the reason given by your employer for any discipline and termination, and why do you think your employer did something unlawful or wrongful. If you have this information handy, it will allow us to proceed more quickly.
We will get back to you shortly – usually within a few hours. If your potential case is a little outside of our wheelhouse, we may refer you to attorneys, agencies, or organizations that we think might be better suited to handle your situation. Our goal is to ensure you get the best and most appropriate help possible for your particular situation. If that’s not us, we’ll try to tell you immediately and point you in the right direction.
If we think that we might be able help you, we’ll set an appointment for you to talk with one of our employment lawyers. We’ll discuss your case, and give you our honest assessment of its strengths, weaknesses, and value. If we then mutually agree that Madia will represent you, we will talk about the process of moving forward with your case.
When you talk with our employment lawyers, please be sure to have all relevant documents that you have in your possession. For example, that could include: pay-stubs, personnel files, employment handbooks/policies, letters from your employer (including your termination letter), any text messages or emails that you think are important, and any other documents that you think might be helpful.