Family & Medical Leave Act

The Family & Medical Leave Act, also known as FMLA, was passed by President Bill Clinton in February of 1993. The legislation guarantees employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to attend to the serious health needs of a spouse, parent or child. It also guarantees job protection when the employee faces a health crisis of his or her own. Another common reason to use the Family & Medical Leave Act is after the birth or adoption of a new child or the placement of a foster child.

Who Qualifies to Take FMLA?

There are several qualifications that an employee must meet to receive protection under FMLA. He or she must work for an organization that has 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of the employee’s usual working location. Additionally, FMLA is only available to people who were hired by the employer at least one year ago and who have worked at least 1,250 hours during that year. The 12 weeks can be taken consecutively or as a cumulative total during the year. An employee may also choose to use paid time off first before taking a FMLA leave from work. Whenever possible, employees should provide a minimum of 30 days notice of their intent to take a FMLA leave of absence.

How FMLA Protects Employees

The Family & Medical Leave Act guarantees workers that they will return to a position that was similar to the one they left before they went on leave. While employers are not required to place returning employees in the exact same position, they are required to offer a position with similar duties and pay. Employees are entitled to keep their health insurance coverage and other benefits while they are out on FMLA, but they have to make premium payments directly to the insurance carrier. Employers are not allowed to retaliate against employees for exercising their right to take FMLA.

Violations of FMLA

There are several instances where an employer may violate FLMA, including refusing to grant it to eligible employees, firing the employee or demoting him or her to a lesser position upon return. If any of these instances occur, the employee should outline his or her concerns with a human resources representative. The next step is to contact an attorney who specializes in FMLA violations. Many Chicago area attorneys offer free consultations to employees whose FMLA rights have been violated. In the event of a successful lawsuit, the employee can recover lost wages and benefits. The employer may also be required to pay his or her court costs.