The right to take leave in the event of a medical emergency is protected by US labor law. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) mandates many workplaces to provide unpaid leave to their workers as long as they provide sufficient notice.
Unfortunately, many employers are either unaware of this law or voluntarily choose to ignore it, forcing workers to decide between their careers and their families or health. In most cases, however, putting a worker in such a position violates federal law.
A St. Louis FMLA lawyer could offer you guidance on appropriate next steps if your employer has violated your right to take family or medical leave. Our employment law attorneys could take the lead in explaining your rights, evaluating the actions of your employer, and seeking out an appropriate remedy in a local court.
The Family and Medical Leave Act provides that eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for any of four general reasons:
It is important to remember that these standards reflects a federally mandated minimum. Many workplaces offer extended leave benefits or continue to keep workers on payroll during leave as a perk to attract more qualified employees. Furthermore, not every employer in St. Louis falls under the jurisdiction of the FMLA. For this reason, it is advisable to discuss particular alleged FMLA violations with an attorney before taking any legal action.
Please note that employees may have additional rights to leave for military duty or purposes under USERRA. In general, employers covered by the FMLA must have at least 50 employees for at least 20 weeks preceding the filing of a federal complaint and must be engaged in commerce or in any industry affecting commerce.
To be eligible for FMLA leave, a worker must have been employed by their employer for at least 12 months and at least 1250 hours during the 12 months immediately preceding the leave. Further, the employee must work at a site where there are at least 50 employees within 75 miles.
Generally, an employer may not interfere with any eligible employee’s FMLA rights. It is a violation of the FMLA to fail to notify or inform an employee of his or her FMLA rights once the employer has notice of any condition that may qualify them for leave.
It is also a violation to deny an employee of properly requested leave, or to fail to reinstate the employee at the end of leave. Employees must be reinstated to the same or an equivalent position after return from leave. Further, the employer is prohibited from retaliating against any employee for exercising his or her rights under the FMLA.
The FMLA is a federal law that applies to employers across the country. Because St. Louis is not in a state that has enacted its own laws for family and medical leave, employers in Missouri may require workers to use their accumulated sick days, vacations days, or PTO before allowing them to take unpaid medical leave. Because of this, workers in St. Louis must look to the federal laws to determine their rights and evaluate the actions of their employers. In addition, only a federal lawsuit has the potential to bring aggrieved employees the remedies they deserve.
It is not necessary to file a charge with any administrative agency before filing a federal lawsuit under the FMLA. However, a claim must be filed within two years of the unlawful act. If the employer has willfully violated the FMLA, an employee has three years to file suit.
A successful plaintiff who sues his or her employer for a violation of the FMLA may be entitled to back pay, actual monetary loss sustained as a result of the violation (up to 12 weeks of pay), and liquidated damages equal to the amount of money lost by the plaintiff, injunctive relief, court and related costs, and attorneys’ fees.
The Family Medical Leave Act requires most employers in St. Louis and around the country to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for workers to tend to a medical or family emergency. Unfortunately, many employers fail to comply with this law and deny reasonable requests for family leave to workers every day.
If you believe that your employer falls under the umbrella of the FMLA and that they have illegally denied your request for family or medical leave, our team may be able to help. We can work with you to explore your rights, evaluate the actions of your employer, and demand appropriate remedies in and out of court. Contact an experienced St. Louis FMLA lawyer today if you would like to discuss your situation.