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Family Medical Leave Act

The main purpose of this website is education.  We want to be a resource for you to learn about the way the law affects you in the life that you and your loved ones live.  Nowhere is a better understanding needed in the confusing world of federal and state leave laws that protect the rights of  workers who are either facing medical problems, or dealing with the medical problems of family members.  The Family and Medical Leave Act is the grandaddy of leave laws. It is a federal law, so it applies across all 50 states.  It deals with exactly what its name says: leave for workers who have medical problems, and leave for workers who need to care for family members.  New Jersey laws that provide somewhat different protections are covered under the next section entitled "New Jersey Leave Laws."

First, think about some common scenarios in which an employee might need time off for medical or family concerns: treatment of or recovery from a serious medical condition; a new baby; a sick parent. 

FMLA requires up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to deal with these and other problems, and you should not have to fear losing your job if you take leave to deal with these things.  There are teeth in this requirement: if you suffer discrimination or retaliation from your employer you may have a legal claim against the company that you can enforce in court.

Who Is Eligible?

You're eligible if (1) you have been employed at the same place for more than 1 year, you work for either a public employer or a private sector employer that has more than 50 employees, and  you or a family member has a serious health condition for which leave is required.

What Are Your Rights Under FMLA?

You get to take up to 12 weeks off, unpaid, but without penalty.  The law provides considerable flexibility.  In appropriate situations you can take the leave in one 12 week block, or intermittently, on an as needed basis.  Other variations of this principle are also possible.

Your employer must hold your job and give it, or another equivalent position, back to you when you return from leave.

How Do You Prove that Your FMLA Rights Were Violated?

Similar to many other employment law rights, it's a 4 step process:

You must prove that (1) you engaged in a protected activity, in this case properly took FMLA leave, (2) suffered termination or another "adverse employment action," and (3) the adverse action was linked to your leave.  At this point you have established a prima face case, and if the employer does not offer a defense, you would win.  However, the law gives the employer the right come forward with a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the adverse action. Once the employer does that, you will have to prove that the leave you took was the real reason for the employer's action and the "but for" cause of it.

You will see from this short paragraph that there's a lot of legal jargon with which most people will not be familiar.  Call us and we'll translate it into English that you can understand.

How Do Employers Violate the FMLA?

The law does not allow the employer interfere with your ability to exercise any right granted by the FMLA. The employer may try to interfere with or discourage your leave application.  Or it may actually deny leave.  Only two things matter: are you entitled to leave under the law?  If so, did you get what you are entitled to?

If you have questions, we're here to help.  Call or email us.