Chicago FMLA Lawyer
Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a labor law directed not at discrimination or harassment, but at making sure that employees do not lose their jobs just because they take medical leave for themselves or medical leave to care for a family member, also known as family leave. In short, the FMLA allows qualified employees of qualified employers to take up to 12 weeks of time off from work during a specified 12 month period. This time may be taken all at once, or taken as intermittent leave. Unlike discrimination and sexual harassment laws, the FMLA depends more on whether the employer follows specific written guidelines than on what the employer was thinking when it took an act.
It is important to note that FMLA leave is unpaid leave. The law does not require your employer to pay you while you are off of work, merely that the employer hold your job for you. However, an employer may require you to use vacation time or sick leave concurrently with FMLA leave. This means that although you are entitled to have your job back when you return from FMLA leave, you may have used your vacation and sick time.
The FMLA only applies to companies that have more than 50 employees within 75 miles of each other. If you are working for a company that has less than 50 employees, you are not entitled to FMLA leave. Furthermore, if you work for a company that has more than 50 employees but does not have 50 employees near you, may also not be covered. The reason is simple. While it is important to give employees time to deal with medical crises, the company has to be able to absorb the loss of the worker. A small day care center may not be able to operate without one of its employees for 12 weeks and may need to hire someone else to stay in business. Similarly, a gas station in a small town may be part of a larger company, but it still has to hire a replacement cashier because it is too far from the rest of the company’s employees for anyone to be able to fill in.
Just because your employer is large enough, does not alone mean that you qualify for FMLA leave. Family and Medical Leave must first be earned. The employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and must have worked at least 1250 hours within the prior 12 months prior to taking the leave.
Furthermore, Family and Medical Leave Act leave is limited to serious medical conditions. It cannot be taken as a normal sick a day. As a result, an employer can (and usually will) require an employee to provide a certification from a doctor that FMLA leave is needed. In addition, having received the certification, the employer can require the employee to get a second opinion from a doctor of the employer’s choice (at the employer’s cost). If the second doctor does not agree with the first, then a third opinion is sought from a mutually agreeable doctor whose opinion is binding. FMLA leave can be used for necessary surgery, but the employee should generally request the leave and have it approved well in advance.
An employee who suffers from a chronic condition may take intermittent leave – a day here or there as necessary because of a flare up of the condition. In these circumstances, the leave may have to be requested upon the employee’s return. The employer may also require medical certification within 15 days.
The Family and Medical Leave Act is a very complex law. Employers are required to have an FMLA policy that complies with the law. And because of the law’s complexity, many large employers have a person whose sole job is to monitor the company’s compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Maduff & Maduff is your Chicago FMLA Lawyer who has handled FMLA claims and can help you to understand your rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act. If you are being denied FMLA leave call us, we may be able to help. If you are fired for having taken approved FMLA leave, or fired while on leave or immediately upon your return, we can help you pursue your claims.