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Top Medical Leave Lawyer Response: What Can I Do If I Was Fired For Taking Approved FMLA Leave?

| Sep 18, 2014 | family medical leave claims, Wrongful Termination |

Best Ohio Family Medical Leave Attorney Answer: Am I eligible for FMLA Leave? Can my job take away FMLA Leave after giving it to me? What should I do if I was fired for taking medical leave from my company? What should I do if I need a lawyer because I was fired in Ohio?

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The Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) is a Federal Law that lets covered employees take extended time away from work to handle certain family or medical needs. To be a covered employee, you must first work for a covered employer. An employer is covered by the FMLA when they have had 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius (say at multiple offices) during at least 20 weeks of the current or preceding year.

Assuming your employer is covered by the FMLA, there are further requirements that have to be met before you will become eligible for FMLA leave. To be eligible for FMLA leave, you must have worked for the same employer for at least the last twelve months, and for at least 1,250 hours over the twelve months immediately preceding the need for leave. Once you have met these requirements, you can take FMLA leave for any of the following:

  • For the birth, adoption, or placement of a child;
  • To care for a spouse, minor, or incompetent child, or parent who has a “serious health condition”; or
  • To handle the employee’s own serious health condition that makes him or her unable to work.
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Given these technical requirements, it should come as no surprise that employers sometimes make mistakes regarding FMLA eligibility. Denying FMLA to an otherwise eligible employee can lead to liability for FMLA Interference, as our Ohio medical leave attorneys blogged about. But, what happens when an employer accidently grants FMLA leave to an employee who is not eligible, and then retaliates against the employee? Courts have found that in such scenarios, the doctrine of “equitable estoppel” will prevent an employer from raising non-eligibility defense when the employee demonstrates that they reasonably relied on the employer’s representations that the employee was eligible for FMLA leave. Equitable estoppel is a legal term that essentially mean once a party acts in a certain way or makes certain promises, that party would not be allowed by law to back out if someone justifiably relied on such actions or promises.

In the case of Medley v. Montgomery County, the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania found that when the employer, Montgomery County, had led the employee, Medley, to believe that she was eligible for FMLA leave when she was not, it could not raise Medley’s ineligibility for FMLA leave as a defense to a retaliation claim.

Medley was employed by the county as a nursing assistant. When she began her employment, she was given documentation that stated that she would be eligible for “family care” leave after only three months of employment. Then, after having worked less than 1250 hours for the county during the prior twelve month period, Medley requested and was approved for intermittent FMLA leave to care for her son, who had several serious health conditions, including Asperger’s Syndrome, developmental delay, and anxiety disorder. However, as Medely began to take intermittent leave, she was written up for her absences. Medley then complained to the county’s HR department, who told her the write ups were “nothing to worry about.” Medley was terminated the following day, which is exactly the opposite of “nothing to worry about.”

After Medley filed a lawsuit for FMLA retaliation, the county filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that because Medley was not eligible for FMLA leave, she could not maintain her claim. Medley responded by arguing that because she would not have taken leave but-for the county’s representations that she was eligible for FMLA leave, the county should be estopped from arguing that she was not eligible. The Court agreed with Medley:

In the context of the FMLA, “equitable estopple may, in a appropriate factual scenario, provide a means of redress for employees who detrimentally rely on their employers misrepresentations about FMLA eligibility.” …[I]n this case, Plaintiff has alleged that Defendants officials told her, incorrectly, that she was qualified for, and covered by, the FMLA and had her execute various forms to “confirm[] her entitlement to FMLA…” Plaintiff alleges that she relied on these misrepresentations and took the leave she thought was FMLA leave, and that she would not have taken and found opther ways to care for her son had she known her leave would not be protected. She further alleges that she suffered a detriment as a result of relying on the Defendant’s misrepresentations because she was fired for taking the leave. Accordingly, we find that the Plaintiff has alleged facts that, under the doctrine of equitable estopple, preclude Defendants from asserting that Plaintiff’s discrimination claim fails because she was not qualified.

Thus, the District Court’s message is clear- once an employer tells you that you are eligible for FMLA leave, they cannot take an adverse action against you for taking them at their word.

If you feel that you are being denied leave rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or are being retaliated against for taking medical leave, you should call the right attorney as quickly as possible to schedule a free and confidential consultation.  The phone number to contact an Ohio attorney for FMLA help is (216) 291-4744.  While you focus on your family medical needs, let our FLMA attorneys focus on your medical leave rights.

Disclaimer:

The materials available at the top of this medical leave page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “how do I get medical leave under the FMLA?”, “what should I do when my job won’t give me medical leave?”, “can my boss deny me medical leave?”, “what should I do if I was fired in retaliation for taking FMLA leave?”, or “is my employer allowed to…?”, your best option is to contact an Ohio medical leave attorney to obtain advice with respect to FMLA questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, LLC, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.