The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers to grant employees time off for certain care giving, medical and family needs. This includes leave to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member, an employees’s recuperation from a serious health condition, or when an employee’s family member is called to active military duty or returns home from active duty with a serious injury or illness. An employee may be entitled to FMLA leave from 12 weeks up to 26 weeks within a 12 month period depending on the circumstances.
The law covers federal, state and local government employees and private employers with at least 50 employees. To be eligible, employees must work for a covered employer for a minimum of 12 months, work at least 1,250 hours within the 12 months immediately preceding leave, and work at a location with 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius.
FMLA benefits employees by allowing them to take unpaid leave without fear of losing their employment. Generally speaking, an eligible employee who takes leave for one of the specified reasons must be reinstated when they return to work. During leave, employees are entitled to continue their health benefits ‘as is’, however if the employee does not return to work following leave, the employer may require reimbursement for premiums paid during the employee’s absence.
Sometimes, employees fear that their employer will treat them unfavorably or even terminate them if they take leave. The laws covering whether you can be fired while you’re on FMLA leave recovering from an injury or illness or while helping a family member are complicated. Although the law is designed to protect employees with qualifying reasons for work absences, an employee may be laid off due to business necessity or fired for performance issues that may coincide with FMLA leave. If you are fired after requesting FMLA leave, it may raise questions of ‘what was the real motive for my termination’ and “is my employer complying with the law?”
If you have been let go while on leave – FMLA or not – you may have a claim for wrongful termination. Getting the help of a knowledgeable and experienced employment attorney will help you decide if you have been wrongfully terminated or otherwise retaliated against on the job for taking leave. Contact the Quad City employment law offices of McDonald, Woodward & Carlson PC – we can help.