An FMLA Lawyer Can Help You Get the Benefits You Deserve
Our Tampa FMLA Lawyer Represents Employees in Cases Involving Family Medical Leave Act
Our FMLA lawyer knows that it is against the law for employers to deny or interfere with their employee’s FMLA rights or retaliate when employees try to exercise these rights. If employers do so, they may be found liable to the employee for lost wages and benefits, other damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted to help employees balance their work life and family responsibilities by providing them the ability to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year to take care of their own or a family member’s serious medical condition.
However, for various reasons, employers do not always comply with the FMLA. They may use tactics such saying you do not meet FMLA criteria or refusing to authorize your leave. If they do allow leave, they may discriminate or retaliate against you or refuse to restore you to a job with equivalent salary when you return to work.
How Our Tampa FMLA Attorney Can Help You
If you are having problems getting FMLA benefits, if your claim was denied or you are facing FMLA issues with your employer, there is help available from a trusted, proven, experienced attorney who works primarily in labor and employment law. At Feldman Legal Group, our employment law attorneys know the intricacies of the FMLA and its protections and how to hold your employer to the letter of the law. We have helped many clients with employment issues and are ready to get to work for you. We fight for justice and fair compensation for your damages.
Resolving FMLA Issues
Our Tampa FMLA Lawyer Handles Disputes with Employers
Resolving disputes related to the FMLA with an employer can be difficult. You don’t want to make your work situation worse or put yourself in jeopardy of being fired, but you want the leave you are entitled to. When you have Feldman Legal Group on your side, we will handle communications with your employer and will fight for your rightful benefits.
What Our FMLA Attorney Can Do for You
- Evaluate your individual situation in relation to FMLA law and see how you qualify and what you are entitled to and explaining your rights and options.
- Review employment contracts, write letters and make phone calls to help ensure you get everything you were promised.
- Gather facts and evidence to show that you were not treated fairly under FMLA regulations. We would need to establish that you worked for your employer during the dates you specified, and that you were not given an appropriate position or that you were retaliated against by your employer.
- Provide advice and handle work situations as they arise.
- File all paperwork in a timely manner, present evidence, and handle all legal procedures to advocate on your behalf to reduce your stress and help you seek a favorable outcome
- File an FLMA lawsuit if necessary and argue on your behalf in court or negotiate an out-of-court a settlement to recover your unpaid wages.
- Protect you from retaliation.
Call for help now — 877-946-8293
Our FMLA Attorneys Can Determine if You Qualify for FMLA Coverage
To Qualify for FMLA You Must Fit Certain Criteria
The FMLA applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius. If you work for a small private company with fewer than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius, you still may have some coverage under city or county ordinances or the company’s own policies. Check with your Human Resources department.
Additionally, some companies with multiple locations all reporting to a central location or office may likewise be required to provide FMLA protection to its employees. Consider smaller places like convenience stores or banks, where each location does not have the requisite number of employees in a single location, but within the 75-mile radius there are 200 employees. Such an employer should legally be required to provide FMLA protection.
Also, to qualify for FMLA you must have worked for your employer for the last 12 months and during those 12 months have worked 1,250 hours. For example, if you normally work a 40-hour work week and only took a two-week vacation, you would have accrued hypothetically 2,000 hours, which means even a person who works part-time at 25 hours a week and works 50 weeks a year can be protected by the FMLA.
FMLA laws regulating employers are quite strict, so if you feel your rights have been violated, you may have a case.
What Must Be Protected Under The FMLA?
The FMLA Offers You Job and Health Insurance Protection in Case of Family Illnesses and Emergencies
According to the Department of Labor, the FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. During FMLA leave, group health insurance coverage must continue under the same terms and conditions as if the you had not taken leave.
If you are an eligible employee, you are entitled to…
Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:
- the birth of a child and to care for the child within one year of birth
- the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the child within one year of placement
- to care for your spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition
- a serious health condition that leave you unable to carry out the functions of your job
- any qualifying emergency involving a spouse, son, daughter, or parent who is a covered military member.
Twenty-six workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness.
In general, if you have a qualifying medical condition or personal situation, you are entitled to up to 12 weeks of leave. Once you are back in optimal health or no longer need to take time off, your employer is required by law to reinstate you to your original position.
What Is Considered a Serious Health Condition Under FMLA?
Not Every Illness or Condition Is Covered by the FMLA. Our Attorneys Can Help You Determine If You Are Covered.
The FMLA defines a serious health condition as an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves either an overnight stay in a medical care facility, or continuing treatment by a health care provider for a condition that either prevents the employee from performing the functions of the employee’s job, or prevents the qualified family member from participating in school or other daily activities.
A serious health condition involves one or more of the following:
- A hospital stay of at least one night
- Incapacity of more than three consecutive calendar days
- Incapacity due to a serious chronic disorder which requires periodic visits for treatment (diabetes, chronic back injury, MS, asthma)
- Incapacity due to pregnancy or for prenatal care
- Long-term or permanent disability (stroke, cancer, Lupus, Alzheimer’s disease)
- An absence to receive multiple treatments for restorative surgery after an injury or to prevent a period of incapacity of more than three consecutive days.
Qualifying FMLA absences related to a serious illness include:
- To care for a parent recovering from stroke or treating for cancer
- To care for a child who is unable to attend school due to asthma or a serious medical condition
- For treatment of your own chronic back injury or condition
- To provide psychological comfort for your spouse during medical testing for cancer
- To care for an adult child who suffers from a serious mental condition and is unable to care for him or herself
- Any work-related injury which prevents the employee from being able to work full duties
- Maternity leave: leave to give birth, or for pregnancy-related conditions which require the employee to stay at home
Can I Sue My Employer for Violating the FMLA?
You may bring a lawsuit against your employer if you were a covered employee whose rights were violated.
If you requested or took time off for your FMLA-covered condition or family situation, you may have a strong legal claim against your employer if your employer did one of the following:
- refused to let you take time off
- fired or disciplined you for requesting leave
- forced you to come back to work before your leave was through, or
- refused to return you to your former position when you finished taking time off.
What Can I Win if I Sue My Employer in an FMLA Lawsuit?
If You Win an FMLA Case, You May Receive the Time Off You Are Entitled to, Reinstatement Of Your Position, and Monetary Compensation.
According to 29 U.S.C. Section 2617a(1), the FMLA permits a court the right to order “injunctive relief.” This means the judge can order your employer to take or stop taking a particular action, as well as to pay monetary damages.
Actions are typically for reinstatement or time off.
- Reinstatement is for situations where your employer denied you your old job back, fired you because you took or asked for leave, or returned you to a job that is not equivalent to the one you held before you took FMLA leave. The employer will be required to put you back in the job you held before you took leave or an equivalent position as far as pay, job duties, benefits, and authority.
- Time off. For situations where your employer denied your request for leave or allowed less time off than you were legally entitled to take, the court can order your employer to let you take your FMLA leave.
The courts may award any or all of the following types of monetary damages:
- Back pay for the wages and benefits you lost as a result of your employer’s actions. Back pay will cover the period from the date your employer violated the law until the date judgment is issued in your favor in your lawsuit.
- Front pay. Front pay is intended to reimburse you for the money you will lose going forward because of your employer’s actions, such as for a period of time when you do not yet have a new job after being fired illegally.
- Other out-of-pocket costs. This is reimbursement for money you had to spend as a result of your employer’s illegal actions. For example, if your spouse was able to take off to take care of you after surgery, but due to your employer’s delay, you had to pay a caregiver to do so, the employer would have to pay you back for this expense.
- Liquidated damages. Similar to damages for pain and suffering, liquidated damages are intended to pay for harm that is difficult to put a dollar amount on, such as the stress you may have suffered as a result of having your leave request denied.
- Attorney fees and court costs.
- The value of employee benefits lost
Why You Should Choose an FMLA Lawyer at Feldman Legal Group
Our experienced litigators will aggressively protect your rights
If you feel your FMLA rights are being violated, you should immediately seek legal opinion from a trusted, proven, experienced attorney who works primarily in labor and employment law. At Feldman Legal Group, we have trusted attorneys who know the intricacies of the FMLA as well as other employment law issues, including violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the federal employment law that addresses minimum wage rates and overtime pay, please call our offices for a consultation.
The Feldman Legal Group focuses our practice on standing up for the individual – in workers’ compensation cases, personal injury law, and employment law claims. Our experience, uncommon commitment to results and passion for our clients have earned us recognition as one of the top plaintiff law firms in the region. We are experienced, seasoned litigators who do not shy away from the courtroom. Our lawyers are cross-trained in a broad range of legal areas and have spent time as defense counsel on cases as well.
Our FMLA Lawyers Explain What Is FMLA Retaliation and Interference
FMLA regulations prohibit actions to retaliate against employees taking leave or interfering with taking leave (29 CFR § 825.220). The law specifies the following prohibited actions:
- An employer is prohibited from interfering with, restraining, or denying the exercise of, or the attempt to exercise, any FMLA right.
- An employer is prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against an employee or prospective employee for having exercised or attempted to exercise any FMLA right.
- An employer is prohibited from discharging or in any other way discriminating against any person, whether or not an employee, for opposing or complaining about any unlawful practice under the FMLA.
- All persons, whether or not employers, are prohibited from discharging or in any other way discriminating against any person, whether or not an employee, because that person has:
- Filed any charge, has instituted, or caused to be instituted, any proceeding under or related to the FMLA
- Given, or is about to give, any information in connection with an inquiry or proceeding relating to any right under the FMLA
- Testified, or is about to testify, in any inquiry or proceeding relating to a right under the FMLA.
Examples of prohibited conduct include:
- Refusing to authorize FMLA leave for an eligible employee
- Discouraging an employee from using FMLA leave
- Manipulating an employee’s work hours to avoid responsibilities under the FMLA
- Using an employee’s request for or use of FMLA leave as a negative factor in employment actions, such as hiring, promotions or disciplinary actions
- Counting FMLA leave under no-fault attendance policies.
Sometimes the above cited can fall into one or both categories of FMLA violations by an employer. If an employer does not allow you to take FMLA leave while you are qualified that could constitute interference.
But if the employer fires you for taking FMLA leave, then that would most likely be retaliation; however, it could also be interference if the firing was also to stop you from continuing to take FMLA leave.
How to Apply for FMLA Leave
If you meet the above criteria or think you meet the criteria you should go to your Human Resources representative, or person acting as Human Resources, and request FMLA paperwork. He or she will more than likely give you a certification form which you must bring to the health care provider providing service for the qualified individual and have it fill out and return it to HR.
You need to provided only the basis for the leave and that time away is necessary for an FMLA leave request. Notification can be in writing or verbal, but for your protection, always ask in writing using email, even if just confirming your FMLA leave with your employer.
Employer Requirement for Granting FMLA Leave
Every employer who is required to offer FMLA protection and becomes aware of an employee missing time from work due to a covered event must offer the employee FMLA protection within five days of knowledge of this covered event, or of the employee missing time from work due to an illness or condition that prohibits the employee from working. The employer must designate the leave as unpaid or a paid time offer.
An employee can be required by the employer to provide specific details and information about your qualifying medical condition or that of your family member. However, an employee is not required to discuss the exact diagnosis or treatment options.
Our FMLA Lawyers in Florida Answer Frequently Asked Questions
The following are answers to questions our attorneys are often asked
What Happens When an Employer Violates the FMLA?
When an employer violates the FMLA, you can bring a case against the employer. Our FMLA lawyers can discuss your individual situation to see if you have a valid case and try to resolve it with your employer. If the case cannot be resolved, we can bring it to court, where juries often find that the employees’ rights have been violated. Your employer will be ordered to comply and you may be awarded a settlement.
What is an Average Settlement for FMLA Violations?
It’s difficult to calculate an average settlement as amounts vary greatly depending on the individual circumstances and factors involved. In some cases, awards have been made as high as the hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars, when emotional distress, punitive damages, and front pay amounts are added in.
Could I Use FMLA Benefits if My Child Needs To Go To The Doctor?
The answer to that question depends on what and how often your child is going to the doctor. If your child has the flu and you are bringing him or her one time to get some medication and see the doctor, that would most likely not qualify as a serious health condition. However, if your dependent child has Multiple Sclerosis and needs ongoing treatment, then yes, you would be covered.
Do I Still Keep My Health Insurance While on Leave?
Yes. Under the FMLA, during your leave the employer must maintain the employee’s health coverage under any group health plan on the same terms as if the employee had continued to work.
Could I Lose My Job for Taking My FMLA Leave?
Under the FMLA an employee must be restored to his or her original or equivalent position with equivalent pay, benefits and other employment terms when he or she returns from FMLA leave. This means if you were a shift manager before leaving on FMLA and were making $15 per hour, you cannot come back from leave and be demoted to an associate who makes $10. However, an employer can move a returning employee to alternative departments. The job the employee returns to does not need to be exactly the same to be covered, only similar, unless a company handbook or company employee manual provides otherwise. Read your employee manuals as a starting point and likewise contact your human resources department.
What is an Equivalent Position under the FMLA?
An equivalent position must involve the same or substantially similar duties and responsibilities, and require substantially equivalent skill, effort, responsibility and authority.
What if I Need to Take an Unforeseeable Absence?
If you are hospitalized on an emergency basis, and unable to notify your employer in advance, such unforeseen circumstances would typically be protected under the FMLA. You must notify your employer as soon as practicable, within one to two business days.
If you are unable to communicate while in a hospital, such as being in a coma or in the ICU, you would not be required to notify your employer until you’re physically able to do so. Employers cannot terminate an employee or deny FMLA protection because the employee did not fill out necessary forms mailed to the employee’s home while the employer knows that the employee is in the hospital.
How Can I Use the Total 12 weeks of Leave?
Employees can use the 12 weeks consecutively or intermittently. So, you can use your FMLA leave via a few days or weeks off at a time that are not consecutive, as long as the total time of your FMLA leave does not exceed 12 weeks in any 12-month period of time.
EVEN ONE HOUR CAN BE PROTECTED (See 29 CFR §825.205).
An employer cannot force an employee to use a full day of FMLA, and must not force an employee to use more FMLA leave than necessary to address the circumstances that precipitated the need for the leave.
Remember: FMLA Leave Is Unpaid
Please remember that FMLA leave is usually unpaid leave. If you are an hourly employee and take 10 hours in a given week off to take care of yourself, typically you will not be paid for that time off unless you have paid time off (PTO), sick time or vacation time. However, each employee who is going to be out for a long period of time or the full 12 weeks should seek to utilize the company short-term disability benefits, or if related to a work accident, workers’ compensation disability benefits.
Ways that an Employer Can Violate the FMLA
There are many ways an employer can violate the FMLA, some are more obvious than others. The following are some examples:
- Refusing to restore an employee to his or her former position if available or to an equivalent position after FMLA leave, or purposefully refusing to do so solely because the employee was missing time from work or exercising his or her rights under the FMLA
- Discharging, suspending, demoting or disciplining an employee because of the FMLA absence
- Failure or refusal to allow the employee to use time off under the protection of FMLA
- Termination of an employee eligible for FMLA leave as of the date needed (example: an employee who is to give birth on January 15, and would have met the requisite work hours as of January 1, but is terminated on December 31 to avoid the FMLA protection)
- An employer that retaliates by giving an employee a false write up, a poor annual review, or otherwise subjects the employee to discipline over performance issues which other employees are not disciplined for
- Any form of harassment or retaliation which causes the employee loss of income or loss of promotional opportunities for complaining about FMLA violations, telling other employees about FMLA rights, or you seeking to exercise your rights under the FMLA
- Any action by the employer to interfere or prevent you from the projections of the FMLA
- Any coercive behavior, threats or intimidation to discourage an employee from taking leave or seeking FMLA protection
Call on Feldman Legal Group for Help with FMLA Issues
Attorney Mitchell L. Feldman spent over a decade defending insurance companies against all sorts of injury claims and workers’ compensation claims. He now uses that defense background, experience and insight to maximize recovery, whether through settlement or verdict, for every client.