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Wrongful Discharge Claims under FMLA

Dec. 18, 2017

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees can take up to 84 days or 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical reasons or to provide care to immediate or closely related family members. All local, state, and federal government departments and private and public schools are required by the law to uphold FMLA. For private employers, they must have at least 50 employees for 20 weeks or more a year to be covered by FMLA. This act provides protection to employees going on leave and ensures that they will be able to return to the same position they left after their unpaid leave period is complete.

Conditions for which FMLA Leaves are Applicable

Employees who are covered by FMLA are entitled to take up to 12 weeks worth of leaves over the course of one year. However, they will have to fulfill one of the following conditions:

  • To help care for a child, parent, or spouse who has been diagnosed or suffering from a serious health condition

  • The birth of a child and to provide care to a newborn within the first year

  • The foster care of a newly adopted child within the first year of their placement

  • To cope or recover from a serious medical condition that renders an employee unable to perform their duties at the workplace

  • To provide care to a military service member who was seriously injured or suffering from a deliberating illness, for which an employee can take up to 26 weeks of work leave per year

Wrongful Termination under FMLA

If you meet any of the above conditions, you can take unpaid work leave under FMLA and return to your job when the period is over. FMLA prohibits an employer to retaliate or fire an employee for taking leaves. However, if the reason is not retaliatory, an employer can legally terminate you. For example, if your employer is reducing staff due to recession or any other legitimate reason and you are on FMLA leaves, you will not have any greater protection against termination or layoffs than other members of the staff.

If an employee suffers from a serious illness and takes leave to recover from it, an employer may make it mandatory for them to provide a medical certification, providing assurance that they are fit to return to work once the leave is over. If they are unable to comply with this request, an employer has the right to terminate the employee.

Filing a Wrongful Termination Charge

If you think that you were wrongfully terminated by your employer, you should consider filing a charge with the US Department of Labor (DOL). Find the nearest Wage and Hour Division of DOL’s Employment Standards Administration, and file a complaint.

However, it can be confusing to know whether you should file a charge against your employer. In order to understand your situation, it is recommended that you discuss your case with an experienced employment law attorney. Contact the Law Office of Michael T. Smith today to discuss your case with an experienced Roselle wrongful termination attorney and evaluate your legal options.