Employee and worker rights have been a long-running topic in our country as we try to maintain a work/life balance. One of the most influential and beneficial laws passed in recent history is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Since the passage of the FMLA in 1993, millions of people have been able to take the time needed to care for themselves and their loved ones. The lawyers at Goodin Abernathy represent clients and their workers’ rights when they need to take medical leave. We are passionate about protecting our clients’ rights and ensuring their livelihood is protected when caring for themselves and family.
Companies or businesses that employ 50 or more people for more than 20 work weeks in the current or previous year must abide by the FMLA. In addition, as an employee of one of the qualifying companies, you must also meet specific standards to qualify for medical leave.
First, you must have been employed by your current employer for at least a year, which would be twelve months. During those last 12 months, you must have worked at least 1,250 hours. This equates to 31.25 40-hour work weeks, which is just under eight months of full-time work. You can qualify for medical leave as a part-time employee. However, you would still need to meet the employment requirements.
Second, if you meet the employment requirements, you or a family member must then experience a qualifying illness or event.
Qualifying Family Members
A qualifying family member would be in your immediate family or household. The FMLA defines family members as the employee’s spouse, parent, guardian or custodian, grandparent, brother, sister, or adopted brother or sister.
To be able to take a medical leave, it must be a qualifying condition or situation. The FMLA defines this as the birth or adoption of a child, a serious health condition that renders you unable to do your job, or a family member’s serious health condition that the employee must take care of.
Medical leave under the FMLA is considered a protected activity as a matter of public policy. Speaking with an employment lawyer can help you understand your rights and ensure you qualify. Employers that terminate an employee for doing a protected activity could be liable for wrongful termination.
What Is A Serious Health Condition?
Not all medical conditions will qualify you for medical leave. The condition must be a “serious medical condition” that prevents you from doing your job. For example, you or a family member must stay in the hospital overnight. You or your family member may require treatment from a doctor that requires three or more days off from work. The medical condition is chronic or requires ongoing treatment that incapacitates you for extended periods of time. The medical condition is long-term and permanent, with no effective treatment available.
How to Take Medical Leave
If your medical leave is planned, you must give your employer at least 30 days’ notice. It is best to communicate with your employer about your medical leave in writing. Print out and keep these communications for your records. For example, adoptions, giving birth, or having surgery would qualify. However, in an emergency situation, you must give notice as soon as possible.
Your employer may ask for a written statement from a doctor. Your statement should include the basic facts of the health condition, when it began, and how long it is expected to last. There should also be a statement about how a serious medical condition prevents you from doing your job, which is why you are requesting medical leave. However, it does not need to include personal medical information that would violate your HIPPA rights.
If you are requesting time off to care for a family member, the statement would need to explain how you are needed to care for said family member. In addition, your employer may require a new written statement every 30 days.
When taking your medical leave, you have 12 weeks available. You can take your 12 weeks all at once or spread it out over the course of the year in smaller breaks.
When your medical leave is completed, your employer may require that you provide a written doctor’s statement verifying that you are medically cleared to return to work or that your family member no longer requires your care.
Stand Up For Your Employment Rights
You may have legal recourse if you qualify for medical leave, and your employer won’t let you, harasses you, or threatens termination. Possible recovery could include getting your job back or monetary compensation. In addition, your employer may be required to pay for your court and attorney costs. The team at Goodin Abernathy works with clients to protect their employment rights. You should be able to care for yourself and your family without fear of losing your job.
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About 40% of Americans have been fired from their job at some point in their life. Getting dismissed from your job is upsetting and something no one wants to face. Indiana is similar to many other states because it recognizes the at-will employment doctrine. A company can fire its employees at any time for almost any reason. However, this does not mean businesses are free to treat their employees however they like. American workers have certain protections and rights afforded them through law and regulation. The team at Goodin Abernathy represents dismissed employees whose former employer violated these protections, resulting in a wrongful termination. If an employee suspects they have been wrongfully terminated, they should look for one of these eight signs.
1. The Reason Is Vague
An employer should be able to provide its employees with a clear explanation as to why they are dismissing an employee. If an employee requests the reason and the employer can’t or refuses to provide one, this could signify wrongful termination. As an employee, you have the right to request the reason in writing from the employer. However, if the employer refuses to provide them with this information in writing, it could be helpful to speak with a lawyer about a potential wrongful termination claim. Because every situation is different, an attorney will work with an employee to determine the viability of their potential claim.
2. Suspected Discrimination
It is illegal for an employer to fire someone solely based on their membership of a protected status. In addition, an employer cannot fire someone based on the perception that they belong to a protected group. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces anti-discrimination laws in the United States. These laws include the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and The Civil Rights Act of 1991, and others. Each of these laws protects individuals in the workplace to prevent discrimination based on the protected classes below.
It is important to understand that an employee can belong to a protected class and still be fired for lack of performance or another reason. Speaking with an experienced employment lawyer can help determine if an employer violated one of these employment protection laws.
3. Fired For Doing a Protected Activity
As a matter of public policy, employers cannot fire someone for performing a protected activity. This would include an incident of harassment or cooperating with an EEOC investigation. This is to protect people, so they don’t have to worry about their employment when tending to personal matters. It is a matter of public interest that people do not lose their jobs when they need them the most simply because they have a family or medical issue to take care of. An example of this would be getting pregnant or caring for a sick family member. These are protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
4. Experienced Harassment
Unfortunately, harassment still exists in the American workplace. While dealing with harassment at work is upsetting, it is even more so when it leads to termination. There are two ways an employee can be wrongfully terminated after experiencing harassment. In the first instance, an employee could face termination after rebuffing advances. This often occurs when an individual in a managerial role makes sexual advances toward someone in a lower position.
In a second scenario, an employee could be terminated after submitting a report of harassment. The company attempts to minimize the harassment by terminating the employee who is raising the alarm. Employees have a right to work in a harassment-free environment. Should they experience harassment from a fellow employee, they should feel safe in their position to report such treatment.
5. Reported Illegal Activities
There are laws in place to protect employees when they report misconduct or illegal activities. This is to encourage employees to say something when they see wrongdoing. A company cannot legally dismiss an employee because that employee came forward with a report of fraudulent, unethical, or illegal behavior. This would be retaliation through wrongful termination. This protection extends beyond the employee’s reporting. It also protects an employee participating in the investigation, lawsuit, or hearings about the reported inappropriate activity. If they are let go shortly after making a report of this nature, there is a possibility that the two events are related. Speaking with an employment retaliation lawyer can help employees understand their rights and possible wrongful termination case.
6. Performing Military or Civic Duty
As American citizens, we are sometimes called upon to perform obligations for the government. This could be responding to a letter calling them to jury duty or voting as a civilian. It could also be reporting to duty as a military service member. An employer cannot fire them for performing these government-called duties.
7. Asserted Employee Rights
Employees should be able to assert and exercise their rights without fear of termination. For example, an employer can’t fire an employee for enforcing their right to payment of wages earned or workplace safety. Should they get injured while working, their employer can’t fire them for reporting a workers’ compensation claim.
8. Contract Violation
The majority of workers are at-will. This means there is no specific contract outlining the terms of their employment. However, some employees have a contract outlining the specific terms of the working relationship between the employee and employer. If an employee has this type of contract, getting fired before contract completion could violate the agreement. They could be entitled to compensation depending on the terms of their employment contract.
Even if an employee is at-will, the company may have an agreement or policy protecting employees. If the employer fired an employee in direct violation of its own policy, this could signify wrongful termination.
Talk With a Lawyer About Your Dismissal
Getting dismissed from your company is never an enjoyable experience. It can feel stressful as you sort out your current situation and seek gainful employment. However, your firing may not be so straightforward. Wrongful termination can be subtle, requiring more in-depth analysis. Consider speaking with a wrongful termination lawyer if you suspect you are a victim of wrongful termination.
Schedule a consultation with one of our wrongful termination attorneys to discuss the circumstances surrounding your dismissal.
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