The Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, allows new parents, including foster and adoptive parents, eligibility for 12 weeks of leave—unpaid or paid if the employee has earned or accrued it—that may be used for the care of a new child.
In order to be eligible, however, an employee must work for an employer that has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius. Also, the employee must have worked for their employer for a minimum of 12 months before taking FMLA, and he or she must have worked for their employer for at least 1,250 hours in the prior 12 months.
It’s against the law for your employer to deny your FMLA if you qualify. If your employer has denied your leave request here’s what you can do.
You Can File an Administrative Complaint
If you believe your FMLA rights have been violated you can file an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). In order to prove your FMLA case you must show that you were entitled to leave and your employer prevented you from obtaining it.
Before filing a complaint make sure that you have gathered all of your documentation (your leave request and your employer’s denial), as well as any supporting materials.
The FMLA is administered and enforced by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. You can reach out to your local Wage and Hour Division to help you file your complaint. Once the DOL receives your complaint they will investigate your claim to determine if there’s been an FMLA violation. If you were not denied FMLA rights unlawfully, the DOL will likely send you a notice explaining why your employer did not violate the law.
If your FMLA rights were violated the DOL will try to negotiate a resolution with your employer.
Related: FMLA updates
You Can File an FMLA Lawsuit
You can file a lawsuit against your employer for FMLA violations. Your allegations, however, must be raised within two years from the date of the alleged violation(s).
If you want to file a suit it’s best to consult an employment attorney. A lawyer can determine whether or not you work for a covered employer, if you’re an eligible employee, and if your employer violated your FMLA rights. They can also assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case and recommend a course of action.
The suit filed by your attorney will detail the claims against your employer and provide facts to substantiate those claims. Your employer will have an opportunity to respond, and you may be able to reach a settlement agreement during this process. Your attorney can guide you through the lawsuit, and potential settlement negotiations.
Related: 7 common employment law issues
You May Recover Damages
The damages you may recover under the FMLA include: reinstatement, back pay, front pay, liquidated damages (which can double the total amount of compensation), and your fees and costs for an attorney. The FMLA does not entitle you to damages for emotional distress.
You Can Fight Employer Retaliation
It’s against the law for your employer to retaliate against you for taking your rightful FMLA leave, or for simply requesting it. Retaliation could take place in the form of a demotion, a reduction in the number of your work hours, or even termination. If the only reason for any of these adverse employment actions is because you exercised your FMLA rights, you may have a valid claim for retaliation.
Related: Common FMLA myths
Your employer can fire or demote you if they can prove that they would have taken the same action whether you had used FMLA leave, or not.
Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney?
An employment attorney can best evaluate your situation and circumstances. If you’re thinking about taking action against your employer for denying you FMLA leave that you’re entitled to take, we may be able to help you. Call our office at 818-230-8380 or fill out the form below to schedule your free consultation.