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Under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), covered employers in Maryland are required to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to employees with qualifying medical conditions. Employment law attorney Joyce E. Smithey represents employers and employees throughout Maryland and the District of Columbia with regard to FMLA compliance and enforcement.
The protections afforded by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are among the most well-known – and often most-misunderstood – protections afforded to active employees in Maryland and the D.C. area. As a covered employer, it is critical to ensure that you have a fully compliant FMLA policy. Failing to grant leave for a qualifying medical condition, demanding more medical information than is required, and failing to protect an employee’s job (when required) are all examples of mistakes that can have costly consequences.
As an employee, you need to make sure that you have a clear and accurate understanding of your rights with regard to protected medical leave. If your employer has committed a violation of the FMLA, taking prompt and appropriate legal action can be critical to protecting your employment.
What is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?
The Family Medical Leave Act is a federal law that requires certain private and public sector employers to grant medical leave to qualifying employees without the possibility of termination due to the employee’s exercise of his or her rights under the law. Under the FMLA, eligible employees are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave provided that they provide appropriate documentation of a qualifying medical condition.
What Employers Are Covered by the FMLA?
Employers that have at least 50 employees for at least 20 workweeks in the current or prior calendar year are subject to the medical leave provisions of the FMLA. The FMLA also applies to local, state, and federal public agencies and government employers (including the State of Maryland).
What Medical Conditions Make an Employee Eligible for Job-Protected Leave Under the FMLA?
In order to be eligible for job-protected medical leave under the FMLA, an employee of a covered employer must be seeking leave due to:
- A serious health condition that prevents the employee from performing his or her job duties; or,
- A serious health condition that prevents a spouse, child, or parent from caring for himself or herself.
Examples of medical conditions that can qualify as “serious health conditions” include (but are not limited to): Pregnancy, asthma, diabetes, terminal illnesses, and other illnesses and injuries that would be likely to result in three or more days of incapacity without medical intervention.
Note that there are certain non-medical grounds to seek leave under the FMLA as well.
What Else is Required for an Employee to Qualify for Protected Medical Leave Under the FMLA?
In addition to having a qualifying medical condition, in order to qualify for protected leave under the FMLA, an employee also must:
- Have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months preceding the start of protected leave;
- Have worked for his or her current employer for at least 12 months (but, those 12 months do not have to be consecutive); and,
- Work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.
What are Some Common Examples of FMLA Violations?
The FMLA is a complicated statute with complex requirements, and as a result, there are a number of different ways that employers can run afoul of their legal obligations. Some of the more-common examples of FMLA violations include:
- Interfering with, discouraging, or attempting to deny an employee from exercising his or her right to unpaid job-protected medical leave;
- Terminating or otherwise discriminating against an employee for opposing a violation of the FMLA (retaliation);
- Improperly denying leave due to failure to properly recognize a serious health condition; and,
- Failing to appropriately reinstate an employee upon the conclusion of medical leave.
Can Employees Ever Be Terminated while on Protected Medical Leave?
Yes. Under certain circumstances, employers will be within their rights to deny reinstatement to employees who take leave pursuant to the FMLA. However, the reason for termination must be unrelated to the employee’s decision to take protected leave, and employers who terminate employees while they are on protected leave must be careful to thoroughly document the grounds for termination.
Contact Attorney Joyce E. Smithey with Your Questions about Medical Leave
If you would like more information about employers’ responsibilities or employees’ rights under the Family Medical Leave Act, contact Maryland and D.C. employment law attorney Joyce E. Smithey to arrange a confidential consultation. To schedule an appointment, call (410) 919-2990 or submit a request online today.