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Law Offices of Dan A. Atkerson

What to Do If an Employer Rejects a FMLA Leave Request

By Dan Atkerson on December 25, 2015

Maternity leaveThe Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is an important federal law that affords employees the right to take necessary time off to tend to family or personal medical issues. The FMLA allows employees to take up to 12 weeks off from work each year. During that time, which is unpaid, the employee is protected from termination, retaliation, or any other kind of punishment for taking that time off.

Employees may want to take FMLA leave for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Recovering from serious illness
  • Family member requires care due to injury or illness
  • Birth of a child
  • Issues pertaining to personal or family members’ military obligation
For an employee to qualify for FMLA leave, the following requirements must be met:
  • The company has 50 or more employees, including part-timers and those currently on leave, who work within a 75-mile radius.
  • The requesting employee must have worked at the company for at least a year.
  • The requesting employee has to have worked 1,250 hours (25 per week) or more in the year before the FMLA leave request.

What If My FMLA Leave Request Is Denied?

Assuming the above requirements are met, and the request for FMLA leave is for an approved reason, an employer cannot legally deny the employee time-off. Employers are also prohibited from taking negative action against an employee for taking that time off. Employees are protected from retaliatory behavior, such as:
  • Demotion – The FMLA requires that employees be reinstated to an equal position they were in before they left; that means same pay, same benefits, same conditions, etc.
  • Terminated Benefits – While the time-off is unpaid, employers are required to continue an employee’s health insurance and other benefits. An employer may require that you pay them back for insurance premiums paid on your behalf during leave if you voluntarily decide not to return to work after taking FMLA leave. However, they cannot ask for reimbursement if you cannot return to work due to serious illness or injury.
  • Wrongful Termination – Many employees have reported being fired after taking FMLA leave, and have had great success in suing those employers for wrongful termination.
If you are qualified to take FMLA leave and are denied or experience retaliatory action for taking leave, talk to an HR representative. They may be able to help resolve the situation. However, if the request is still not approved or the punishment continues, contact an employment lawyer.

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