When employees or their loved ones become ill, taking time off work to recover can be challenging. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that provides job protection to eligible employees who need time off work due to illness, to care for sick family members, or to attend to disabilities. Despite the protection offered by the FMLA, some employees experience retaliation from their employers or taking eligible time off. An employer may terminate their position or take other adverse actions against the employee.
Discuss Your Case With a Family Medical Leave Act Lawyer Today
Has your employer denied you FMLA benefits to take time off of work? Has your employer retaliated against you after you used FMLA benefits to take time off of work? If so, your employer may violate federal law, and you need an experienced Washington employment law attorney as soon as possible. Attorney Kristi Favard of Sapphire Legal, PLLC, is an award-winning employment lawyer representing employees throughout the greater Seattle area. Contact her today to discuss your legal options. Contact Sapphire Legal, PLLC, today to schedule your initial consultation.
Understanding Your Family Medical Leave Act Rights As an Employee
The FMLA requires employers with more than 50 employees to give employees up two 12 weeks of unpaid time off for the following:
- pregnancy complications
- caring for a newborn baby
- placing a child for foster care or adoption
- caring for an ill spouse, child, or parent
The FMLA also protects the employee’s job from any type of retaliatory action. For example, if an employee gives birth and takes 12 weeks off to recover through FMLA, the employer cannot fire the employee during her time off. In other cases, an employer may demote the employee to a lower position once they return to work after the FMLA-related absence. Employers cannot take any of the following actions against an employee who has rightfully used FMLA benefits:
- refusing to let the employee take up to 12 weeks off of work through the FMLA
- disciplining or firing an employee who requested time off of work through the FMLA
- forcing an employee to return to work before the FMLA leave is completed
- refusing to return the employee to his or her former position after the leave is completed
Remedies Under the Family Medial Leave Act
If your employer violated the FMLA, You have a legal right to file a claim against your employer. Discussing your case with an employer as soon as possible is crucial. You will need to submit your claim before the time limit expires. Your lawyer will also be able to help you make an informed decision about whether you should bring a lawsuit and the types of damages you may be able to recover. Several different kinds of remedies are available for employees who succeed in bringing FMLA claims against their employers.
Reinstatement and Time Off for FMLA Violations
Courts can give an employee “injunctive relief” after an FMLA violation. Injunctive relief involves a court ordering his or her employer to take or stop taking actions that violate the law. In many FMLA cases, employees will request the court to order the employer to reinstate them and allow them to take time off. An employee can ask for reinstatement when the employer took one or more of the following actions:
- fired the employee because he or she asked for time off or took leave
- denied giving the employee his or her old job back upon returning to work
- demoted employee to another type of job upon returning to work
In these cases, courts typically order the employer to reinstate the employee to a virtually identical position to his or her former job. The position should be nearly identical in every meaningful way, including job duties, pay, authority, and benefits.
Additionally, suppose an employer violated the FMLA by denying an employee’s request for leave. In that case, the employer can ask the court to order the employer to allow him or her to take FMLA leave. For example, suppose your employer allowed you to take 12 weeks of FMLA leave but demanded the employee return at the end of the 12 weeks. In this case, the court can order the employer to allow the employee to take the final two weeks of leave.
Money Damages for FMLA Violations
In addition to reinstatement and time-off, employees can ask the court to order the employer to pay money damages. These damages are intended to make the employee whole from the harm he or she suffered due to the employer breaking federal law. Under the FMLA, courts can award the following types of damages:
- back pay for the wages and benefits lost due to the employer’s actions
- out-of-pocket costs for the money the employee spent due to the employer’s illegal actions
- front pay for the money the employee will lose in the future
- liquidated damages equaling the total front and back pay awards
- attorney’s fees and costs
The Washington State Family Leave Act
Washington state has enacted its version of the FMLA. The Washington State Family Leave Act (FLA) builds upon the rights provided under the FMLA. The FLA provides additional leave for women who have given birth and applies the law to same-sex married couples and domestic partners. Under federal law, when a woman takes time off due to pregnancy, FMLA and pregnancy disability time run simultaneously, limiting the amount of leave women can use after they give birth.
Under Washington’s FLA, if a woman needs to take 12 weeks off during pregnancy due to pregnancy complications, she is still entitled to a full 12 weeks of FLA after childbirth. Additionally, if a woman doesn’t need to take time off of work before the birth, Washington’s law allows her six weeks of disability time and an additional 12 weeks FLA. FMLA and FLA benefits differ, making it vital that you discuss your case with a Washington-based employment lawyer who knows state laws.
Contact a Washington FMLA Lawyer Today
Employees in Washington state have a right to take time off of work to recover from their illness or to care for a loved one with an illness. If your employer has denied the right to take unpaid time off under the FMLA or FLA, you are not alone. Attorney Kristi Favard will represent your best interest and help you obtain the legal relief and damages you deserve. Contact her today to schedule your initial consultation.