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Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993: Interference Claims


What is the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993?

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”), as amended, protects employees who need leave from work for their own medical condition(s), as well as for the care of certain other individuals. Under the FMLA, only eligible employees of a covered employer can take advantage of the Act’s guaranteed twelve weeks of annual leave and its protections against employer
interference and/or retaliation.

Covered Employers and Employees

A covered employer is one who employs 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius. A covered or eligible employee is one who (i) has been employed for twelve or more months, (ii) worked 1,250 hours within the 12-months preceding the start of the requested leave, and (iii) works at a location where the employer employs 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius. An employee must meet all three of these requirements to be eligible under the FMLA. Regardless of whether an employee meets the eligibility requirements, if the employer does not meet the 50-employee requirement, the employer is not subject to the FMLA.

What is an interference claim?

Interference claims are those wherein an employee asserts that his/her employer either denied or interfered with his/her substantive rights under the FMLA. An employee establishes an interference claim by demonstrating that he/she was entitled to take leave, but was denied this right. An employee must also demonstrate that he/she has been prejudiced or harmed by the
interference and that such can be remedied through damages or equitable relief.

However, an employer’s denial of FMLA leave to which an employee is entitled, is not the only form of interference contemplated by the FMLA. Various courts haver recognized additional forms of interference, including but not limited to an employer’s manipulation(s) to avoid FMLA responsibilities, changing the essential functions of the job to preclude taking leave, and discouraging an employee from using FMLA leave to which he/she is entitled.

Additionally, an employer may interfere with an employee’s FMLA rights by asking or requiring the employee to perform work tasks while out on FMLA leave. One court noted that “the ability to take FMLA leave is not conditioned upon the willingness of the employee to remain ‘on-call’ to the employer.” Therefore, denying an employee’s request for FMLA leave is not the only means by which an employer may interfere with an employee’s rights under the FMLA.

If you feel your employment rights under the FMLA have been violated, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced Birmingham employment law attorneys at Michel | King. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 319-9724. We are here to serve you.

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