Although Florida is an at-will work state, employment law still dictates certain policies that protect employees from wrongful termination. The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is one such provision that was put in place to maintain a worker’s job role and reputation during eligible leave.
Can an employer fire or discipline a worker for using approved FMLA? The short answer: no. However, the details are bit more complicated as specific hostile acts in the workplace may be difficult for an employee to recognize. If you were terminated or even harassed upon requesting or taking family medical leave, you may be entitled to lost wages or damages.
Determining FMLA Eligibility and Obtaining Approval
FMLA eligibility varies based on one’s company, as well as length of employment at the establishment. Typically, staffers who have worked at a business for at least 12 months or 1,250 hours within that period are eligible – although, certain restrictions may apply. That is, not all employers are required to offer family medical leave. Smaller companies with less than 50 employees in a 75-mile limit do not have to offer leave under FMLA.
Once you have determined your FMLA eligibility, you’ll need to apply for approval via several federal forms.
FMLA and Employee Workplace Rights
Employees have the right to request information on FMLA. In fact, covered employers must display an FMLA poster from the United States Department of Labor (DOL) that outlines eligibility guidelines (and more) in an eye-catching place like an employee break room. Employees also have the right to take leave if they work for a qualifying employer, and they are eligible.
Since FMLA is protected by federal employment law, a manager cannot retaliate against a worker for exercising his or her occupational rights. Consider the following unlawful examples of retaliation:
- An employee requests information about using FMLA to care for her sick mother; shortly after, she is inexplicably demoted to a position that demands less.
- A worker returns from FMLA approved leave after caring for a sick child. Upon return he is consistently subjected to hostile behavior, including workplace bullying and discrimination regarding his masculinity and right to take FMLA leave. His superiors claim his soft side impacts his job performance. He is eventually fired.
- Despite delivering exceptional work, an employee is denied her annual performance bonus – which she received last year under the same circumstances – except this time, the bonus is denied shortly before her family medical leave begins.
Filing a Complaint
The examples above are hypotheticals. Only an FMLA attorney can offer insight on your specific situation and whether your wrongful termination or hostile workplace claim qualifies. If your assertions meet the requirements to prosecute, an employment attorney will work with you to file a formal complaint against your former employer.
Still active at the company? No problem. Hiring a lawyer ensures your complaint is taken seriously, which often makes an employer less likely to retaliate once a claim is initiated.
If you have questions regarding wrongful termination or retaliation related to FMLA, contact Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. today to schedule your free consultation, 813-365-3417.