Fired for Requesting FMLA Leave – Do I Have a Case?
About the Family Medical Leave Act
The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) permits a qualified employee of a covered employer to take an unpaid leave of absence from work to address a medical issue or to care for an immediate family member. The FMLA protects an employee who takes qualified leave from discrimination, retaliation, or wrongful termination as a result of their taking FMLA leave.
FMLA leave is available to qualified employees of covered employers, in addition to and regardless of the employer’s own sick leave policies. An employee is eligible for FMLA leave if he or she has been employed by the employer for at least 12 months (does not have to be consecutive months) and works at a site where the employer employs at least 50 employees within the geographic vicinity.
The FMLA allows an employee to take leave for:
- The employee’s own prolonged illness or medical issue
- To care for an immediate family member’s illness or medical issue
- Following the birth of the employee’s child, to permit recovery and bonding with the child
- Following the employee’s adoption of a child to permit bonding with the child
An employee is required to provide his or her employer with advance notice of the employee’s intention to take FMLA leave, if practical. If advance notice is not practical, the employee must still provide notice as soon as possible. If the reasons for the leave fall within one of the categories under the act, the employer is required to grant up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave. The employer must allow the employee to return to his or her position or provide the employee with a similar position upon their return.
The FMLA prohibits any form of discrimination against an employee who uses or attempts to utilize their rights under the act. When an employer engages in discrimination, retaliation, or termination of an employee who has taken FMLA leave, it can easily lead to litigation.
Employer Responsibilities under FMLA
An employer is required to post notice of FMLA rights in visible work areas, and to include notice of rights in any employee handbook. If the employer fails to have procedures for requesting FMLA leave or provide employees notice of such procedures, they cannot discipline employees for not adhering to such procedures. If an employer terminates an employee who has requested, is taking, or has returned from FMLA leave, the employer must ensure that the reasons for termination are valid and non-discriminatory and are not connected to the fact that the employee requested or took FMLA leave.
Bringing a Case for FMLA Violations
As noted, just because an employee is taking FMLA leave, he or she is not necessarily exempt from being terminated while on or after returning from leave. However, the employer must have a legitimate reason for the termination unconnected to the FMLA leave. In many cases, terminating an employee on FMLA or who has recently returned from FMLA leave leads to a lawsuit alleging violation of the FMLA, given the temporal proximity between the leave and termination. An employer may try to defend against a charge of violating the FMLA by citing the terminated employee’s performance issues or poor attendance prior to their FMLA leave.
Contact a Moorestown Labor & Employment Lawyer to Discuss Your New Jersey FMLA Case
Although New Jersey labor laws are supposed to provide you with protections in your job, it is not always easy to get the benefits and rights you deserve. That is why you should speak with a knowledgeable labor and employment lawyer about your situation and get guidance throughout the process of asserting your rights. The experienced labor and employment attorneys at Attorneys Hartman, Chartered represent clients in Burlington County, Camden County, Marlton, Medford, and all across New Jersey. Call (856) 235-0220 or fill out our online contact form today to schedule a free consultation about your case. Our main office is located at 68 E. Main Street, Moorestown, NJ 08057.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.