The protections afforded to employees by the FMLA include allowing employees to take leave from work to deal with health issues, without the fear of losing their jobs. While an employee is off on FMLA leave, the employer is required to maintain the employee’s existing health insurance coverage, and guarantee that their job (or an equivalent position) will be waiting for them when they return. Qualified employees are guaranteed a total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave each 12- month period.
When can I use my FMLA leave?
Eligible employees, who meet the above requirements, can only take leave for a qualified reason, such as a “serious health condition.” The law defines this term. You can also take FMLA leave to care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition. On the other hand, time taken to care for a seriously ill relative other than a parent or child is not covered.
FMLA discrimination claims have increased
There have been many studies conducted by various groups into discrimination claims, particularly those claims related to taking family leave. These studies show that the number of these claims has consistently been increasing. Not only are the existence of these claims increasing, but the number of claims actually being taken to trial is uncharacteristically high.
What is Family Responsibilities Discrimination?
One report refers to these newer types of claims as "Family Responsibilities Discrimination." After analyzing more than 4,000 cases, this study showed that between 1998 and 2012, these kinds of cases rose 590%, while other types of employment discrimination lawsuits actually decreased by 13%.
Pregnancy accommodation cases have also increased by an incredible 315%, especially among women who want to continue working but need some type of workplace accommodations. Likewise, lactation discrimination cases have risen by 80%, mostly because employers routinely deny employees a place to breastfeed or express milk or discriminate against those employees for doing so.
Newer types of family responsibilities claims
Cases involving men as caregivers have increased over the years, with potentially one-fourth of so-called family responsibilities discrimination complaints coming from men. Another new type of issue is commonly referred to as “new supervisor syndrome.” This refers to employees experiencing a variety of problems with taking leave for family that only arise when new supervisors take over. “Second child syndrome” is another familiar concept for some. Many employees who may not have experienced any FMLA discrimination when they had their first child, instead experience problems with their employers after the birth of their second or subsequent child.
The good news is that, according to some reports, employees in family responsibilities discrimination cases have received more than half a billion dollars in verdicts and settlements from 2006 and 2015. That would be more than double the amount reported in the previous decade.
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.