Let’s pretend for a moment. Imagine that this is your life:
Your little bundle of joy has just arrived—a bright-eyed little girl. As your husband, you, and your newest addition to the family all drive to your home in Columbia Tusculum from Cincinnati Children’s, you feel lucky that you work for an employer large enough to qualify for FMLA. Your husband works for a small design firm in Mount Lookout and therefore does not get any time off of work for life-changing events, like the arrival of a baby. Your pregnancy was exceptionally hard on you and you take off four weeks. You can’t afford to take off any more than that; your husband’s income is limited and not enough to live on with the expenses of a newborn added to the mix. When you return to work, you find that you no longer have a job.
Unfortunately, this is not an absurd scenario. This kind of thing happens to working mothers and families. If the mother in this situation has been a good employee and has given her employer no reason for termination, she most likely has a case for a breach of the FMLA.
In 1993, Congress enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act, more commonly known as the FMLA. Under the FMLA, American workers at certain companies are allowed 12 full weeks of unpaid leave for circumstances such as the following:
- The birth of a newborn child
- The adoption of a child
- The care of an immediate family member who has a serious health condition
- An employee’s serious health condition
This sounds nice, but remember, this is only for some companies that meet specific requirements. And even then, this is unpaid leave.
Some states (and even some cities) have implemented paid leave policies, but here in Cincinnati, Ohio, we are limited to unpaid leave under the FMLA, and even that is not for everyone. When a family (such as the one in the example above) is expecting to get—at the very least—unpaid leave and is suddenly denied this privilege or punished for taking this time off, it is a huge injustice. It is no secret that the U.S. lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to employee leave policies. When what little we are afforded is pulled out from under our feet, it cuts deep.
This is why we are here. At Robert A. Klingler Co., L.P.A., we focus on employment law. What does this mean? We represent individuals when they have been wronged in some way by their employers. Sometimes, this comes in the form of discrimination, whether based on gender, race, disability, or age. Sometimes, it is in the form of sexual harassment or retaliation for whistleblowing activity. Other times, a worker is unjustly affected by a breach of policy, contract, or the law. If the dispute is related to employment, we may be able to help.
We are here to represent workers who have been wronged in the workplace. If you believe that your rights to FMLA leave have been denied, you may have a case against your employer. Call a Cincinnati FMLA attorney to see what we can do for you.
How do I know if I qualify for unpaid leave under the FMLA?
Not every employer is covered under the FMLA. Your company is only covered if it employs fifty or more employees, if you work for a public agency, or if you work for a private elementary or secondary school. The fifty or more employees must all work within seventy-five miles of your work site. In addition, you must have worked for your employer for at least one year, and for at least 1,250 hours during that year.
If you qualify, you can take 12 weeks of unpaid, job-secured leave during any 12-month period for a serious health condition you or a family member might have. The law requires that you continue to receive your health benefits while on leave.
The arrival of a baby is not the only circumstance that may permit you to take unpaid leave. If you adopt a child or become a foster parent to a child, you may be entitled to time off. In addition, the FMLA provides time off of work for illness. If you or an immediate family member is suffering from a serious health condition, you may be entitled to unpaid leave in order to care for yourself or your loved one.
What if I don’t need the entire 12 weeks?
Although the FMLA provides for up to 12 full weeks of unpaid leave, you do not have to take this full amount of time, and you do not have to take it all at once. If you have a health condition that requires you to be off periodically, for shorter periods of time, you may be able to take “intermittent” leave by splitting up the 12 weeks into smaller chunks of time. If you are going to do this, it is important that you inform your employer as soon as you know when you need to be off work. To the extent possible, you should schedule your time off so that you do not inconvenience your employer.
Cincinnati FMLA Lawyers Here to Protect Your Rights
If you are going to take unpaid leave under the FMLA, there are some things to keep in mind to reduce the possibility of any problems with your employer. You should review your employer’s FMLA policy and follow all of the guidelines for applying for FMLA leave. Consult with your manager or Human Resources department to be sure you are following the required procedures.
Also, it is important not to forget that your actions on social media are visible to the public. (Read our blog post about how social media posts can hurt you.) If your employer has reason to believe that you have been dishonest in asking for FMLA leave, it may have grounds to terminate you. Such action has been found in the past to be legal. Do not lie about your condition in order to take leave. We cannot do anything in these instances to help you. However, even honest employees may find themselves being accused of dishonesty. Facebook posts, tweets, and other social media communications can be misconstrued and used against you if you are not careful.
It can be difficult to know if you have been treated unfairly due to your need for time away from work. Generally speaking, you must be given either the same job when you return or an equivalent one. However, don’t be surprised if your employer changes your position to better accommodate your need for intermittent breaks from work. If you feel you have been given an unfair change of jobs due to your leave, contact a Cincinnati FMLA lawyer. At The Law Offices of Robert A. Klingler Co., L.P.A., we have been serving the residents of Ohio and Kentucky in FMLA disputes. If you believe you have been treated unjustly, call us.