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The Family and Medical Leave Act

In the past, employees had to worry about their financial security whenever they needed to take time off for a specific family or medical need. Whether that involved welcoming a new baby, caring for a sick family member, or dealing with family pressures when a loved one was deployed abroad on active military service. 

 

Employees in these situations often face the fear that their employers would give their jobs away. Fortunately, for many, this is no longer the case. 

 

Today, in Arizona and every other state in the country, employers are subject to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), which guarantees eligible employees a certain amount of unpaid, job-protected leave from work to deal with certain family and medical needs. 

Who is Covered Under the FMLA? 

The FMLA covers all employers with 50 or more employees in a 75-mile radius. This includes school districts and city, county, municipal, and state governments. 

 

To be eligible for leave under the FMLA, you must meet the following qualifications:

 

  1. You must work for a covered employer;

  2. You must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months (not necessarily consecutive); and

  3. You must have worked 1250 hours within the last 12 months. 

Qualifying Reasons for Leave Under the FMLA 

The following are qualifying reasons for FMLA leave:

 

  • To care for and bond with a newborn child;

  • To care for and bond with a newly placed adopted or foster child;

  • A serious health condition that prevents you from performing the essential functions of your job;

  • To care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition;

  • To deal with issues arising from a loved one being deployed abroad on active military service; and 

  • To care for a family member who is a covered service member with a serious injury or illness.

How Much Leave Is Available under the FMLA? 

If you work for a covered employer and you are an eligible employee, the FMLA provides unpaid, job-protected leave for up to 12 weeks per year.

 

If you need time off to care for a family member who is a covered service member of the armed forces, the FMLA provides 26 weeks of leave in a 12-month period.

Additional Protections Under the FMLA 

  • The FMLA provides you with protection from interference. The law prohibits your employer from interfering with (i.e., retaliating) or denying your rights under the Act. 

  • The FMLA  requires your employer to maintain your health benefits while you are on leave as if you were still working. This includes employer contributions to premiums that would exist if you were not on leave. 

  • Your employee benefits are also protected. You are entitled to reinstatement of all benefits to which you were entitled before going on leave. 

  • You are entitled to reinstatement to the same position upon return to work. If the same position is no longer available, your employer must provide you with a position that is substantially equal in pay, benefits, and responsibilities. 

  • You are protected from retaliation under the FMLA. Your employer may not retaliate against you or treat you differently with respect to wages, work hours, or other terms and conditions of employment because you exercised your rights under the Act.

 

 

You can take FMLA leave intermittently, or on a reduced schedule, when medically necessary. This includes occasional unpaid leave for doctor's appointments for a chronic condition, physical therapy, psychological counseling, chemotherapy, or for temporary periods of incapacity, such as severe morning sickness or asthma attacks.

 

In cases of leave for birth, adoption, or placement of a foster child, an intermittent leave schedule may only be taken with the employer's consent, and must conclude within 12 months after the birth or placement of the child.

 

When intermittent leave is necessary and foreseeable, you should try to provide your employer with at least 30 days’ notice. This can include notice of time off needed for pre-planned surgeries or regular doctor's appointments that qualify as intermittent leave. For unforeseeable leave, you should try to provide notice as soon as practical.

 

Moreover, you must make a reasonable effort to schedule leave so as not to unduly disrupt your employer's business operations. You should also know that, during intermittent or reduced schedule leave, your employer may require you to transfer temporarily to an alternative position which better accommodates recurring periods of leave, so long as you are provided with equal pay and benefits.

Intermittent/Reduced Schedule Leave

 

There is an exception to the FMLA reinstatement requirement as it relates to key employees. The FMLA defines a key employee as a worker who is among the top ten percent of the employer's highest-paid employees within the required 75-mile radius.

 

The exception says that if a key employee's absence would result in "grievous and substantial economic injury" then the employer can inform the employee that their job will not necessarily be protected during the leave.

 

At the time that you request leave, your employer must notify you (in writing) that you qualify as a key employee, and that you might be denied reinstatement. Your employer still has to provide the leave, but you will not have the right to be reinstated to the same position when you return from leave.

Exemption for Key Employees

What if My Rights Under the FMLA are Violated? 

If you believe that your FMLA rights have been violated, you can contact the Department of Labor, who may investigate your claim.

 

You can also hire an attorney and file a private lawsuit against your employer. An experienced Arizona employment attorney can help you navigate the legal process and ensure that you file a timely lawsuit if applicable. 

 

Any action to vindicate your FMLA rights must be taken within two years after the last action that you believe violated your rights or three years after if the violation was willful as defined by the law. 

We can Help.

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Being denied family and medical leave or sick pay can make anyone angry. Likewise, experiencing harassment, discrimination, retaliation, or other abuse of authority by your employer for simply exercising your rights under the law can make you feel betrayed.

 

After all, your career and financial security are on the line, and the outcome of an employment dispute can shape your career and financial stability for years to come. This is why it is important to have an experienced employment attorney handle your employment matters.

 

Robinson Law Offices is a law firm of Arizona employment attorneys committed to fighting for employees in Arizona who have been denied their rights under state and/or federal employment statutes. We can help you understand your rights and protections in the workplace and assist you with enforcing them. 

 

We are dedicated, hardworking professionals with experience litigating all areas of employment law and crafting solutions to employment disputes. If you have an employment law matter in Arizona, contact our office today.

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