what to do if FMLA is denied

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that provides financial support for employees that take time off from work to care for their own health or a family member. Certain employers must provide FMLA leave, and it is voluntary for others.

Unfortunately, lawyers often hear from new clients, My FMLA was denied! Now what? Sometimes employers deny an employee’s FMLA request. Where an employee had their FMLA denied wrongfully, they should consult with an employment law attorney like O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble about what to do next.

What Is the Family and Medical Leave Act?

The FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period to employees who need to care for themselves or close relatives. 

Additionally, it provides 26 weeks of leave within a 12-month period for employees to care for close relatives who are injured servicemembers. The employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and a minimum of 1,250 hours. FMLA is mandatory for employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.

Qualifying Health Conditions

You can take time under the FMLA to care for yourself or your close relative for serious health conditions. Close relatives include spouses, children, or parents. Here are some of the most common serious conditions that qualify for FMLA leave:

  • Conditions requiring an overnight stay in a medical care facility,
  • Conditions that incapacitate you or your family member for more than three consecutive days and require ongoing medical treatment,
  • Chronic conditions that cause you or your relative to be incapacitated occasionally and require at least biannual medical treatment, and
  • Pregnancy.

It also covers time off for the birth of a child or adoption.

What Benefits Does the FMLA Provide?

The FMLA guarantees that your employer must grant leave to employees in certain situations. Here are some of the other benefits that follow the time-off requirement:

  • Your employer must continue your health insurance during the time off, although you might have to make your normal contributions; 
  • Your employer must give your job back upon your return or place you into a nearly identical role;
  • Time off cannot be a basis for employment retaliation, such as in hiring, promotions, or disciplinary processes; and
  • If you have any paid time off saved up, you can use that in combination with your FMLA leave to continue receiving pay.

Employees may take their FMLA leave all in one block or broken up into smaller chunks for occasional absences.

What Happens If My FMLA Is Denied By My Employer?

If your employer denies your FMLA claim, you have several options. You can file a complaint with the Department of Labor or file a lawsuit in court. 

Your attorney can help you figure out the best course of action in your specific situation.

File a Complaint with the Department of Labor

If your employer denies your FMLA, you can make a complaint to the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor. The U.S. DOL oversees the FMLA. They will conduct an investigation into your complaint and confirm whether your employee denied your FMLA rights wrongfully. The DOL will try to work with you and your employer to resolve the problem. If the DOL denies your claim, you can appeal their decision. 

File a Private Lawsuit 

Employees may file a private complaint under the FMLA in any federal or state court. They must generally do so within two years after the last violation. That time limit stretches to three years for willful violations of the FMLA. It is up to the court to determine whether the violations were willful. Employees can recover damages for losses or harm suffered as a result of their FMLA denial. 

Can You Be Fired If Your FMLA Is Denied?

Your employer can not retaliate against you for exercising your rights under the FMLA. That means whether you make an FMLA request or appeal their FMLA denial to the DOL or in a private lawsuit, they cannot take adverse employment action against you. If your employer demoted you, reduced your work hours, or terminated your employment, and the only reason was that you exercised your rights, you may have a claim for retaliation. An attorney can assess your situation and determine if your employer violated your rights. If so, they can help you pursue your legal claim. 

Contact O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble

O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble are New Jersey attorneys helping clients with a variety of employment law issues. We can assist you with your claim under the FMLA to the U.S. DOL or in court. Our experienced attorneys will help you seek the compensation you deserve when your employer violates your rights under state or federal law. Contact us today to discuss your claim.

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