Family Medical Leave Act
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives some employees the
right to take time off from work to care for a sick family member, a new
child, or attend to their own medical needs. The FMLA covers only large
employers, those with at least 50 employees. In order to qualify for FMLA
leave, you must have worked for your employer for a total of at least
twelve months and you must have worked at least 1250 hours in the preceding
twelve calendar months.
If you meet these criteria, you may take up to twelve weeks of FMLA leave
for your own serious health condition, to care for a family member with
a serious health condition, or for the arrival a newborn or an adopted
child. The FMLA leave may be unpaid. FMLA leave can sometimes be taken
on an intermittent basis, even for a few hours at a time. There are comprehensive
FMLA regulations and requirements that both employers and employees must follow.
If the employer provides health insurance benefits, the FMLA requires the
employer to maintain those benefits intact while the employee is on FMLA.
It is illegal for an employer to deny an employee FMLA leave if he or
she qualifies for it. It is also illegal for an employer to punish an
employee or retaliate against him or her for taking FMLA leave. In most
cases, the employer must restore an employee who is returning from FMLA
leave to the same or an equivalent position.
In addition to the FMLA, which is a federal law, Washington has a variety
of state leave laws designed to enable employees to strike a balance between
their employment and family responsibilities. The Washington Family Leave
Act, which also only applies to large employers with at least 50 employees,
gives women the right to take unpaid leave following childbirth. Pregnant
women who have a normal childbirth with no disability related to the birth
can take up to eighteen weeks of unpaid leave. Women who have a pregnancy-related
disability are permitted to take twelve weeks of unpaid parental leave,
plus up to twelve weeks of disability leave with a doctor's certification,
for a total of twenty-four weeks of unpaid leave.
The Washington Domestic Violence Leave Act allows victims of domestic violence
or family members assisting a victim to take "a reasonable amount"
of leave, or to work a reduced schedule to take steps to address domestic
violence. This law applies to all employers in Washington, both public
and private, regardless of size.
Under the Washington Family Care Act, employers who provide paid leave
for their employees' own illnesses must allow their employees to use
their paid sick leave to care for family members. Finally, employers in
the City of Seattle with at least 5 employees are now required to provide
paid sick time to their employees who work within the City limits.
Leave laws are complicated. We have helped countless employees successfully
navigate the maze of Washington leave laws. Our firm has represented in
court numerous employees who have had their FMLA rights denied. In one
case, for example, we obtained a $220,000 judgment for a county prosecutor
who was wrongfully terminated for taking family medical leave. If you
have been wrongfully denied leave, contact an attorney at Frank Freed
Subit & Thomas to discuss your legal rights and possible remedies.