Under terms of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), qualifying employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for themselves, a loved one, or a newly born or adopted child. Unfortunately, some employers choose to throw obstacles in an employee’s path to that federally mandated leave or to retaliate when the employee returns.
If you’ve been unjustly denied FMLA leave, or you found yourself in a hostile work environment after returning from leave in or around the Akron, Ohio area, contact the Law Offices of F. Benjamin Riek III immediately.
Attorney F. Benjamin Riek III previously worked for the U.S. Department of Labor (the agency that administers the FMLA) and since leaving has been aggressively defending employee rights in the workplace. He will work with you to develop a strong case and represent you vigorously to reach a positive outcome.
The Law Offices of F. Benjamin Riek III serves individuals and families in Hudson, Canton, Cleveland, Lorain, and Akron, Ohio. Call today to schedule a consultation.
The Family and Medical Leave Act became law in 1993 and was the first piece of major legislation signed by incoming President Bill Clinton. Though the FMLA has been amended since its enactment, its major provisions remain unchanged.
The law allows qualifying employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a year with health benefits continuing, along with an obligation to restore the employee to the same or similar position upon their return. The 12 weeks of leave do not have to be consecutive and can be used in increments.
Most employers calculate the year as beginning backward from the date of the FMLA leave request. This is called a rolling calendar year and is used to prevent an employee from taking 12 weeks from November of one year to January of the next year, and then immediately qualifying for another 12 weeks beginning in February.
A qualifying employee is anyone who has worked 1,250 hours for a covered employer within the past 12 months. The 12 months do not have to be consecutive —which covers seasonal workers — but for the employer to be covered by the FMLA, that employer (unless it is a public agency or public or private school) must have at least 50 employees on the payroll within a 75-mile radius. In other words, a fast-food chain with several locations within that radius would qualify if the total number of employees amounted to 50 or more. (Note: The FMLA was later modified to provide for a different calculation of hours served for flight crew employees.)
The FMLA allows leave:
To care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent facing a serious health condition
To care for yourself if your health condition prevents you from performing the essential functions of your job
To welcome and care for a newborn child or an adopted child or a child placed under your foster care
To care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent who is a military member on active duty or is called to active duty and faces a “qualifying exigency”
Another amendment provides for 26 workweeks of leave during a “single 12-month period” to care for a service member with a serious injury or illness when the employee is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin of the service member.
The employer can require an employee whose own health or the health of a covered family member is the basis for the FMLA request to submit medical certification. The certification form can be one supplied by the Department of Labor or one developed by the employer, but the employer’s form cannot require information not specified in the FMLA or its regulations. The employer is obligated to pay for the certification. The employer may also require second and third recertifications at their own expense.
Employees returning from FMLA leave must be restored to their original or an equivalent position “with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.” According to the FMLA, the protected leave must be considered “no-fault,” meaning it cannot count against the employee’s attendance, though the employer is allowed to require employees to use up any remaining paid leave as part of the 12 weeks of FMLA leave. For instance, if an employee has three weeks of unused vacation time, the first three weeks of FMLA leave will be paid but considered protected under the FMLA. The protected leave, including vacation time, would still max out at 12 weeks.
If the employer offers health insurance, the coverage must be continued for employees on FMLA leave “under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.” In other words, employees on FMLA leave are still responsible for their portion of the monthly health insurance premium.
Attorney F. Benjamin Riek III has knowledge of all aspects of employment law from his experience working for the federal government and his subsequent 40 years as an employee rights attorney. If you live in Akron, Hudson, Canton, Cleveland, or Lorain, Ohio, and you’ve suffered FMLA abuse or been denied benefits, call the Law Offices of F. Benjamin Riek III today for reliable legal guidance.