The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) applies to private employers and provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid and protected leave throughout any 12-month period, so long as they have a valid reason and the proper qualifications to do so. FMLA requires that employers give their employees the same or an equivalent position upon their return from leave. The job protections under FMLA also include the employee’s retention of the same or similar pay, benefits, and responsibilities that the employee had prior to taking leave.
Two causes of action against employers are available under the FMLA. The language of the FMLA states that it is “unlawful for any employer to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of or the attempt to exercise” any right provided by the FMLA. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for exercising rights under the FMLA.
Under the FMLA, an employee may take leave only for:
- The employee’s own serious health condition;
- A family member’s serious health condition;
- The birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child;
- Qualifying exigencies arising out of a family member’s military deployment; or
- A family member’s serious injury or illness arising from military service.
The protections under FMLA apply to companies with a minimum of 50 employees. An employee must also work no more than 75 miles away from his/her worksite and must have already worked at least 12 months with the employer. In addition, the employee is required to have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours prior to the date for which leave under the FMLA is requested. It is important to recognize the following about the FMLA:
- An employee’s FMLA request does not need to be in writing (although it is recommended that an employee place all leave requests in writing);
- An employer is required to respond to the employee within five business days of receiving a request for leave or of becoming aware of the need for FMLA leave;
- An employee does not need to provide exact dates or duration of the leave request;
- If the leave was foreseeable, the employee must notify the employer at least 30 days before the leave is to begin, or “as soon as practicable” for unforeseeable leaves;
- The employer must provide a written notice to the employee with details about the expectations and obligations of the employee, and explain any consequence for the employee’s failure to meet those obligations.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) protects female employees from discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions. Such discrimination constitutes unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII. Pregnancy discrimination is a form of discrimination based on sex. Under the PDA, women affected by pregnancy or related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work; employers are prohibited from treating pregnant employees differently from other employees. If a pregnant worker is temporarily unable to perform her job due to pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same way as it treats any other temporarily disabled employee.
Examples of pregnancy discrimination include:
- Refusing to hire someone because she is pregnant;
- Demoting an employee because of her pregnancy;
- Terminating an employee because she is pregnant;
- Giving light duty assignments to other workers but not pregnant workers;
- Denying an advancement or a promotion because of the individual’s pregnancy;
- Altering the conditions of employment even when an individual’s pregnancy does not prevent her from performing her job duties;
- Being treated noticeably different with respect to the conditions and benefits of employment because of the individual’s pregnancy;
- Generally treating female employees differently based on their reproductive capacity;
If you believe that your employer has violated your rights under the FMLA or PDA, do not hesitate to contact us. We will fiercely and effectively fight for you. The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks PC is on the employee’s side. To learn more about us and our success against employers who have violated our clients’ rights, contact us by phone at (800) 406-8013 or via email.