Family Medical Leave Act: How it Affects Arizona Employers and Employees.
Some people go through personal health problems or have a direct family member suffer from a health condition. These unfortunate circumstances usually spill over to affect an individual’s performance at work which could lead to their termination. While Arizona is an at-will employment state, a federal law protects some employees from being fired when they are treating an illness or caring for sick loved ones. This law is the Family Medical Leave Act.
The Family Medical Leave Act mandates that all public employers and covered private employers (Covered means: Employer had 50 or more employees employed for a 20 week period in the last year) give eligible employees (Eligible means: 1. Employee worked for the employer for a year, 2. Employee worked at least 1275 hours spanning that year, 3. Employee works in a place where the employer has 50 or more employees in a 75 mile radius) up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off. The leave can be requested for an individual’s own health, the health of a loved one, a birth/adoption, and military active duty (up to 26 weeks off). This leave can be taken all in one block of time, or it can be taken on intermittent leave.
The Family Medical Leave Act should be taken seriously by employers. A recent case required Fed Ex to repay an employee $91,000.00 for its failure to provide FMLA benefits to an employee. (Link) Typical damage awards include lost wages/salary, benefits, other compensation, plus interest as well as a liquidated damages effectively doubling the employees loss. This does not include reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs of litigation.
Both Arizona employers and employees do have notice requirements under the FMLA. An Employer must provide notice to its employees by posting notice of the FMLA and the employees’ rights under the FMLA. Employers must include the FMLA notice in their employee handbooks. Employers must provide an employees notice of their eligibility for FMLA leave if employer becomes aware that employees leave request may be for FMLA reasons. Lastly, an employer must notify an employee whether certain leave is designated as FMLA leave and how much time they have remaining of that leave.
Conversely, an employee must give proper notice of leave (if possible) and upon request must provide a doctor’s verification that the health condition requiring leave real. An employer can request second or third opinions, but only at the employers expense. Employees must also provide recertification of the need for leave when reasonably requested by the employer.
If an employee feels that their employer did not provide proper notice regarding FMLA or that they were denied FMLA inappropriately, then they can pursue a claim against their employer for damages. To win a trial an Arizona employee must be able to show the following: 1) they are an eligible employee, 2) their employer is a covered employer, 3) they were entitled to leave, 4) they gave notice to their employer, 5) their employer interfered with their FMLA benefits, and 6) they were harmed by the employers actions. The employer can raise the defense that there was a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the adverse employment action and then the employee must show that the employers defense is pre-textual.
As you can see, not everyone will qualify for protection under the Family Medical Leave Act. In these circumstances the employee may qualify for the Americans with Disabilities Act, or they may simply be out of luck. If you are a eligible employee and your employer is not complying with the FMLA, then you may be able to bring a claim against your employer.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Family Medical Leave Act, or any other personal injury, please feel free to contact Employment Law Attorney Brad Gardner at 480.461.5323, log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.