Best Ohio FMLA Attorney Answer: What rights do I have to take medical leave under the FMLA? What should I do if my employer interferes with my attempt to take FMLA leave? Can I sue for wrongful termination if I was fired today when I requested medical leave to take care of my sick wife?
At Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, our employment law lawyers are people too. We have medical issues and families that have medical issues. Our attorneys know that sometimes life gets in the way of work and you need some time away. Most employers understand these health and family issues, and are empathetic with their employees’ needs to take time away from the job. Unfortunately, there are a lot of bosses, mangers, and supervisors that just don’t care.
That’s where the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA“) comes into play. As our medical leave lawyers have blogged about before, the FMLA is a federal law that lets covered employees take extended time away from work, to handle certain family or medical needs. (See Can My Boss Fire Me Because I Used FMLA Leave?; Is A Doctor Note Required For Each Intermittent FMLA Leave?; Do I Have A Claim For FMLA Retaliation?; and Can My Boss Control When I Take FMLA?) Federal law states that an employer is required to provide eligible employees with a maximum of twelve weeks of leave if the employer is a private business engaged in, or affecting, interstate commerce, that employed fifty or more employees in twenty or more weeks in the current or prior calendar year.
Furthermore, an employee who works for a covered employer is eligible for leave if he or she worked for the employer for at least twelve months, and for at least 1,250 hours over the twelve months immediately preceding the need for leave. (See Top FMLA Lawyer: Am I Eligible For Medical Leave From My Job?; Are All Employees Eligible For FMLA?; and What Hours Count Towards My FMLA Eligibility?)
Moreover, § 2615 of the FMLA prohibits employers from discharging, discriminating or otherwise retaliating against an employee for exercising his rights under the FMLA. Importantly, when an employee returns from leave granted by the FMLA, he or she is entitled to be restored to his or her former job, or to an equivalent job, with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms of employment.
In Puckett v. Yates Services, LLC, the employee worked for Yates from November, 2012 until she was terminated in December, 2014. During her employment, Tennisha Puckett used FMLA leave from October 25, 2014 until November 17, 2014. Thereafter, she requested additional FMLA leave in December, 2014 but was denied, and then terminated. Initially, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee recognized that there are two types of claims that employees can assert under the FMLA: “The FMLA recognizes two types of claims: interference claims, in which employers burden or outright deny substantive statutory rights to which their employees are entitled; and retaliation claims, in which employers initiate adverse employment action against employees for exercising their FMLA rights. Romans v. Michigan Dept. of Human Servs., 668 F.3d 826, 840 (6th Cir. 2012).”
After Puckett asserted both claims, the employer moved for summary judgment (which is a request to throw the claims out as a matter of law before a jury gets to decide) as to an employee’s claims for FMLA interference and retaliation.
As to the FMLA “interference” claim, Puckett claimed that Yates violated the FMLA by denying her access to eligible FMLA leave in December, 2014. To establish that Defendant interfered with her FMLA rights, an employee must show that (1) he or she was an eligible employee, (2) the employer is subject to the FMLA, (3) the employee was entitled to leave under the FMLA, (4) the employee gave the employer notice of his or her intention to take FMLA leave, and (5) the employer denied her FMLA benefits to which she was entitled.
In this case, the employer attempted to argue a technicality that requires an employee to seek medical care within seven days of taking leave:
Defendant contends that, with regard to Plaintiff’s December 2014 FMLA request, she did not receive in-person treatment from a health care provider within seven days of her first day of incapacity, November 29, 2014. It is undisputed that Plaintiff did not see her doctor until December 9, 2014. Plaintiff contends, however, that she had an appointment scheduled for December 4, 2014, within seven days of her first day of incapacity, but her doctor became ill and was out of the office on that day. Plaintiff actually saw the doctor on December 9, 2014.
Defendant, relying upon Giddens v. UPS Supply Chain Solutions, 70 F.Supp.3d 705 (D. Del. 2014), argues that Plaintiff’s excuse for not seeing the doctor within seven days does not warrant an extension of the seven-day requirement. In Giddens, the court stated in a footnote that, even though the regulation provides for an extension of the thirty-day requirement of 29 C.F.R. § 825.115(a)(1), the regulation offers no such leeway under 29 C.F.R. § 825.115(a)(2) for the initial visit. Giddens,70 F.Supp.2d at 718, n. 9.
The Court does not read the regulations so restrictively as the Delaware court. Plaintiff has established that she had a scheduled doctor’s visit within seven days from the date of her incapacity. Defendant has admitted that Plaintiff informed her supervisor that she had a doctor’s appointment for December 4, 2014. Through no fault of her own (the doctor’s illness), she had to postpone (at the last minute) that doctor’s visit.
I’m sure that given the above, you will not be surprised that the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee denied the employer’s motion for summary judgment on this claim and agreed with Puckett that a genuine issue of material fact remained on this issue to present to a jury. Specifically, the Court determined “that Plaintiff has sufficiently shown a ‘serious health condition’ under the ‘incapacity and treatment’ portion of the regulations. Because denial of the second FMLA request ultimately resulted in her termination, Plaintiff has demonstrated a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Defendant interfered with her exercise of FMLA rights.”
The Court also denied summary judgment as to Puckett’s FMLA retaliation claim. The Court based its ruling on the “retaliation” claim on the same facts that supported her “interference” claim. The Court stated the following: “As for FMLA retaliation, if Plaintiff successfully proves that Defendant wrongfully denied FMLA leave to which she was entitled, a jury could find that her firing was in retaliation for exercising and trying to exercise her FMLA rights. It is undisputed that her firing was because of her alleged violations of the attendance policy and those alleged violations were a result of Defendant’s denial of her FMLA leave. Accordingly, the retaliation issue will also have to be determined by the trier of fact at trial.”
FMLA rights can be tricky. Relying on what HR tells you may not be the best advice.
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 866-797-6040. While you focus on your family medical needs, let our FLMA attorneys focus on your medical leave rights.
This employment law website is an advertisement. 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 Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.