Did you know that you may be eligible for FMLA if you work for a larger company? Unfortunately, despite knowing this, some employers take retaliatory action against employees for taking time off work due to eligible reasons. If that is what you are dealing with, it may be necessary to consult experienced FMLA Lawyers.
What is FMLA?
Also known as the Family and Medical Leave Act, FMLA is a federal law that requires employers to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each calendar year. In addition, this law requires employers to preserve both the job and certain benefits throughout the leave period.
But some rogue employers do not usually follow the rules. In New York City alone, there have been countless cases in the recent past where employers have acted against eligible employees for requesting their right to FMLA leave.
In 2019, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that an employer violated the FMLA by firing an employee for taking a vacation in Mexico while on a medical leave of absence. The court awarded the plaintiff close to $1.3 million compensation for lost wages, future income and benefits, emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorney fees and costs.
At the time, the employee was recovering from knee surgery. Their surgeon ordered them to stay away from work to give their knee ample time to recover from the surgery. Although they requested to return to work, the HR manager informed them that they could not resume working without clearance from their surgeon. As a result, they opted to take a vacation to Mexico while recovering from the surgery.
While on vacation, they found out that they had lost their job.
The court ruled that the employee was entitled to the vacation given that they did not engage in activities that would otherwise suggest that he had abused the FMLA process. In the ruling, the court argued that taking a vacation in Mexico while recovering from the surgery was as good as staying at home during the recovery process. Besides, the employee had a solid history of taking a vacation to Mexico every year. Therefore, this particular vacation was not unexpected.
Identifying FMLA Violations
From the above example, it is quite apparent that some employees may not know whether their employer violated the FMLA when facing a similar situation. This is because FMLA laws might seem quite straightforward on paper, but they are not. Therefore, as an eligible employee, you may want to watch out for these common FMLA violations in the workplace:
Ignoring an FMLA Request
When requesting FMLA leave, the employee does not have to explicitly cite ‘FMLA leave’ as the reason for submitting the request. Instead, it is the employer’s responsibility to realize that the request falls under FMLA. For this reason, employers cannot claim that they did not know that the employee needed FMLA leave.
Here’s an example:
- Suppose an employee requests time off from work to take care of a newborn child. In that case, this reason falls under FMLA.
Instructing Employees to Work From Home While on FMLA
You should not be working from home when you take an FMLA leave. However, you may communicate with your employer to update them on your progress. If your employer requests you to work from home while on your FMLA leave, you may have a case against them.
Demoting an Employee After an FMLA Leave
Employers know that it is illegal to fire an eligible employee after an FMLA leave. Since they cannot fire such employees, some employers opt to demote them. This is also a violation of FMLA.
Employees should be able to retain their initial position at the company upon their return from FMLA leave. But if they must switch positions for whatever reason, the new role should have the same benefits, duties, salary, etc., as in their previous role.
Employee Discrimination and Retaliation
Some employers will simply refuse to grant eligible employees their request for FMLA leave. When such employees take time off work as FMLA requires, some employers may take retaliatory actions. Experienced FMLA lawyers can help determine whether the employer’s actions violated FMLA. If so, the attorney will also determine the best course of action to take against the employer.
Worker Rights and Protections
In New York City, an eligible employee can apply for FMLA for any of the following reasons:
An eligible employee may apply for FMLA leave to take care of their newly born child. They may also be eligible for this leave to take care of a newly adopted child or a newly placed foster child.
Caring for Family Members
Eligible employees may apply for FMLA leave in New York City to care for certain family members. They include their spouse, child under age 18, a child aged 18 or older but unable to take care of themselves due to certain eligible reasons such as mental or physical health problems, and parent’s sicknesses.
Employees who cannot work due to a serious illness may also be eligible for FMLA leave. Some examples of such serious illnesses include:
- Pregnancy or related complications
- Treatment for substance abuse
- Heart attacks
- Severe injuries
- Alzheimer’s disease
How to Prove FMLA Violations
If you have reason to believe that your employer violated your right to FMLA leave, you may be able to file a lawsuit against them. First, however, you will need proof of the specific violations. This could be in the form of written communication between you and your employer or any other qualifying evidence.
For example, if you lost your job after taking an FMLA leave you were entitled to, the job termination letter from your employer could serve as evidence of FMLA violence. However, since FMLA violation cases vary from one employee to another, consider consulting an experienced FMLA lawyer to establish the most appropriate evidence for your case.
How to File an FMLA Claim in New York City
In New York City, you can file an FMLA complaint online. However, the easiest and better option is to contact a seasoned New York City FMLA lawyer.
How to Choose the Best FMLA Lawyer for Your Claim
Since NYC is home to numerous FMLA lawyers, it is always advisable to be thorough throughout the selection process. Here are some key questions to consider when looking for such an attorney:
- What is their experience practicing employment law in New York City?
- How familiar are they with FMLA claims?
- Have they handled similar cases before?
- How much do they charge for their services?
- What do they think about your case?
How R&M Can Help
Ricotta & Marks is the leading employment law firm in New York City. We fight for the rights of workers in New York City, Queens, Long Island City, Carle Place, Astoria, Bronx, Flushing, Jamaica, NY, Great Neck, Brooklyn, Nassau County, Suffolk County, and the surrounding areas.
When you contact us for a free consultation, the first thing we’ll do is to determine whether you have a valid case against your employer. Once we establish that you have a valid case, we will walk you through the next steps, helping you strengthen your case before filing your claim.
Throughout the entire process, you can rest assured that we will fight for your best interests. Call us today at 347-960-4383 to speak with an experienced FMLA lawyer NYC.