An employer will sometimes decide to “cut its losses” and terminate an employee who is perceived as taking too much time off for medical or family reasons. Many people are surprised to learn that most employees qualify under a federal law to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for medical and family reasons, and the same law protects employees from being retaliated against for taking or requesting such leave. The federal law is known as the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA. In order to be eligible to take leave under the FMLA, an employee must:
- have worked 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of leave;
- work at a location where the employer has 50 or more employees within 75 miles; and
- have worked for the employer for 12 months.
In order to succeed in a lawsuit under the FMLA, an employee who meets these qualifications and has been fired or otherwise retaliated against must show that their current or former employer deterred him or her from taking leave authorized under the act, or interrupted such leave. Employees can recover lost wages, liquidated damages in an equal amount of the lost wages (sometimes called “double damages”), and attorney’s fees under the FMLA. FMLA lawsuits sharply increased recently, up to 877 in 2013 from 291 in 2012, according to the most-recent figures from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, which monitors and records federal lawsuit filings.
If you have been fired after taking or requesting medical leave, or for taking or requesting time off to care for a family member, you should consult with an experienced medical leave attorney who can advise you of your legal rights.
About the author: My name is Josh Borsellino. I am an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas. My office is in Fort Worth, but I handle cases across Texas. I understand federal employment laws, including those governing unpaid overtime and family and medical leave. For a free consultation of your legal issue, call me at 817.908.9861, or complete this contact form.