Thirty years ago, on February 5, 1993, President Bill Clinton signed the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) into law, establishing one of the most important pieces of legislation for American workers.
Levinson Axelrod, P.A. is proud to recognize this milestone and the impact that the FMLA has had on protecting the health and wellbeing of employees across the country. Below, we explain key aspects of the FMLA and the rights of workers.
What is the FMLA?
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a Federal law that provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for certain qualifying reasons. These reasons include:
- The birth or adoption of a child;
- The need to care for a close family member with a serious health condition; or
- An employee’s own serious health condition.
The law applies to all public agencies, public and private schools, and companies with 50 or more employees.
Why the FMLA is Important
Since its enactment, the FMLA has been instrumental in ensuring that employees can take time off to care for themselves and their loved ones without fear of losing their job or health benefits. The law has provided peace of mind to millions of workers, allowing them to focus on their health and the health of their family members without worrying about the financial burden that time off from work can create.
In the 30 years since its enactment, the FMLA has been amended several times to provide additional protections and benefits to employees. The law now includes military family leave, which allows eligible employees to take time off to care for a covered military service member, and expanded leave for serious health conditions, including those related to pregnancy and childbirth.
Who is Entitled to FMLA Leave?
You are entitled to FMLA leave when the following applies:
- You work for a covered employer (i.e. an employer with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius);
- You have worked for your employer for at least 12 months; and
- You worked for your employer for at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to your leave.
Can an Employer Deny FMLA Leave?
The FMLA obligates covered employers to take leave for qualified reasons when the above circumstances have been met. Sometimes, employers may require proof of your qualified health condition, the birth or adoption of a child, or your loved one’s serious health condition.
It is against the law for employers to ask employers to perform work while they are on approved FMLA leave or to retaliate / discriminate against employees who request and take FMLA leave. Retaliation and prohibited conduct by employers may include refusing to authorize leave, discouraging an employee from using FMLA leave, or using an employee’s request or use of FMLA leave as a negative factor in employment actions such as hiring, promotions, or disciplinary actions.
Employers can be held accountable when they violate a worker’s rights under the FMLA. These matters are typically handled by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.
The New Jersey Family Leave Act
In New Jersey, we also have our own additional protections under the New Jersey Family Leave Act, but that law does not celebrate its 30th Birthday for a few more years.
Like the federal FMLA, the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) entitles certain workers to take up to 12 weeks of family leave in a 24-month period without losing their jobs. It also prevents employers from retaliating against employees who seek or take leave benefits for covered absences.
With the FMLA, the NJFLA provides another important safety net to ensure that workers across the state can focus on their health and the health and wellbeing of their loved ones during tough times.
Fighting for Workers Since 1939
At Levinson Axelrod, we have a long history of helping victims of serious accidents, which can affect them in so many ways. Our job is to make sure that our clients understand all of their legal rights to help them through this difficult time in their lives.
As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act, we recognize the important role it has played in improving the lives of millions of workers and their families and we look forward to continuing to support its mission in the years to come.
There are many questions that come up when someone suffers a significant injury that puts them out of work for a long time. The FMLA provides some relief that the job will be held for a period so someone can heal. There may be other benefits, too. If you have any questions regarding your situation, please do not hesitate to contact Levinson Axelrod, P.A. for a consultation.