The Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) is a federal program intended to help employees who are in need of an extended period of time off from work for a multitude of different reasons. The unpaid leave program protects an individual’s job for a designated period of time. Additionally, FMLA ensures that eligible employees are able to retain the same terms and conditions of their employer-provided health insurance for the duration of their protected leave.
According to the law, employers are not allowed to fire employees for taking leave through FMLA. Specifically, the law prevents an employer from “interfering with, restraining, or denying” access to FLMA. This means that as long as an employee qualifies to take FMLA, the employer cannot stop them from taking it, interfere with their ability to use the program, or retaliate against them as a result.
What does it mean for an employer to stop an employee from taking FMLA? The law explicitly forbids employers from denying employees access to the program. If an employer denies a request for use of FMLA, they are violating the law. Employers cannot attempt to dissuade an employee from using FMLA or discourage its use. Of course, the employee also has to follow the guidelines of FMLA in order to protect themselves. It is important for both groups to adhere to the guidelines of the individual’s FMLA plan. The bottom line is that if you apply for and are granted FMLA, your employer cannot deny you access to leave within the boundaries of the law.
When it comes to interference, it is important to note that an employer cannot change the guidelines of FMLA. Employers cannot ask employees to change their eligibility, to work around their FMLA, or to delay their taking of the program. However, it is important for employees to work with their employers and engage in FMLA guidelines for calling off of work. For example, qualifying individuals can submit their intention to take leave directly to the employer. In some cases, this may require a certification in the form of a doctor’s note. If the leave is foreseeable, employees are generally required to provide thirty days’ worth of notice to the employer. If not, the employee must provide notice to the employer within a reasonable period of time. As long as you comply with these guidelines, your employer cannot interfere with your use of FMLA.
Commonly, employees fear that their employers will retaliate against them for taking leave. This, too, is expressly prohibited. Retaliation is generally adverse employment action that is taken against an employee as a result of their use of protected FMLA leave. It could come in the form of a demotion, a pay decrease, or termination. Regardless of its form, such action is illegal where it can be shows that the action was taken as a result of an employee’s use of FMLA leave.
If you believe that you have been retaliated against for using FMLA, you may file a complaint with the Department of Labor.Additionally, if you believe that any adverse employment action has been taken as a result of your use of FMLA, contact an attorney at Ruppert Manes Narahari for guidance and representation.