Everything Floridians should Know about The FMLA Act | Life isn’t always smooth-sailing; it can throw you a curveball from time to time. You and your family might find your lives upended, like if you develop a serious illness that needs a lot of monitoring and care or go through a major life change, which could keep you from working your regular hours. How does one deal with this situation?
You’re not without options, fortunately. In between working and tending to your or their needs, you can exercise your rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This allows you to take days off from work to recover from a period of serious illness or care for family members in certain scenarios.
In a 12-month period, employees in Florida may have a total of 12 weeks of FMLA leave. If you meet the law’s requirements, this leave option is available to you every 12 months. It may be taken as a full 12-week period, intermittently, or in multiple blocks of time during the year.
Here’s a closer look at the FMLA:
The Florida FMLA is applicable to all local agencies and public agencies. As a few examples, school administrators and workers at local, state, and federal government levels are qualified. Meanwhile, private employers must meet specific criteria. Their employer must have 50 or more employees and they must have then been working in that company for a minimum of 20 weeks in the current or previous year.
Employees also have their own set of requirements. You must have worked:
- At least one year (though it does not have to be consecutive);
- At a site where, within 75 miles, there are 50 employees minimum; and
- At least 1,240 hours in the past 12 months before filing for FMLA.
Valid Reasons for Leave
As an employee, you may avail of FMLA if you need time to:
- move a foster child in;
- bond with an adopted child;
- care for a newborn infant with your spouse;
- recover after suffering from a serious health condition;
- provide care to a member of your family with a serious health condition;
- care for a family member who is an injured veteran; and
- handle qualified needs brought about by your family member’s military service.
In order to request for FMLA, you must provide sufficient notice in advance. If you’re able to anticipate the leave, you are obligated to give at least a 30-day notice. You will also need your health care provider’s FMLA certification that validates you or your immediate family member’s serious health condition. The documents must contain information about your position, description, and the serious medical condition (which requires inpatient care or continued treatment).
Upon receiving your certification, you will have 15 days to submit this to your employer. Take note that your employer may request a 2nd and 3rd opinion, and additional certification (like a fitness report) during or after your FMLA Leave. The absence of your notice or certification documents may result in a rejected application.
Although FMLA is unpaid, it is also job-protected. This means that federal law mandates employers to allow employees who take the leave to return to their same position or its equivalent. With this, you are also entitled to the same pay, bonuses, and benefits as your job before the leave. You cannot be reassigned or demoted to a lesser role.
In addition, your employer is prohibited from:
- Manipulating the number of work hours you have rendered to prevent any FMLA responsibilities;
- Discouraging or refusing FMLA despite your eligibility;
- Including FMLA in “no-fault” attendance policies; and
- Treating your request or use of the leave as a negative mark on your employment actions (including promotions, disciplinary actions, and more).
If you find that your FMLA rights have been violated, you will be able to pursue the following remedies within a 12-week timeline:
- Employment benefits and wages
- Monetary Loss
- Lost or Denied Compensation
- Attorney and Expert Witness Fees
- Other Damages
Pursuing Legal Support
Major life changes can take a toll on anyone. Make sure that any further disturbances in your regular routine and lifestyle won’t ruin you by exercising your FMLA rights.
You may file your complaints to the Wage and Hour Division, US Department of Labor by mail, telephone, or in person. Floridians may also visit any of their local offices. Alternatively, you may file a private lawsuit in any competent state or federal court.
Keep in mind that the statute of limitations applies. In general, you must file your lawsuit within 2 years after the last identified violation. This may be extended to 3 years for willful violations. The court’s ruling will decide whether the violations were true and whether they were intentional.
For any unaddressed concerns or necessary assistance, get in touch with an attorney trained in FMLA in Florida today!