Denial of FMLA

What is FMLA?

FMLA stands for Family and Medical Leave Act. The FMLA is a federal statute that affords qualified employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to deal with their own serious health condition, the serious health condition of a family member, or the birth or adoption of a child. To qualify for leave under the FMLA, an employee must have worked for an employer with 50 or more employees for at least 12 months. FMLA leave may be taken continuously or in increments (e.g. several hours per month to receive chemotherapy or dialysis treatment). Leave under the FMLA is unpaid. However, the employer may require the employee to substitute paid leave for unpaid leave. The FMLA also prohibits retaliation against employees who take protected leave. There is a Rhode Island statute that provides similar protections known as the Rhode Island Parental and Family Medical Leave Act (RIPFMLA).

How does it work in the state of Rhode Island?

Under the Rhode Island Parental and Family Medical Leave Act (RIPFMLA), an employee is allowed to take 13 consecutive weeks (as opposed to 12 weeks under the FMLA) of parental leave or family leave in any 2 calendar years. If an employee’s leave is covered under both FMLA and the RIPFMLA, the leaves will run concurrently unless otherwise provided in the employer’s employee handbook. To be eligible for leave under RIPFMLA, an employee must work for an employer with 50 or more employees and must have worked for that employer at least 30 hours per week for at least 12 consecutive months. RIPFMLA allows the employee to provide care for a child, spouse (including a same-sex spouse), parent, or parent-in-law. Unlike the FMLA which allows for intermittent leave or a reduced schedule, RIPFMLA leave must be taken on a continuous basis. During a period of leave under the RIPFMLA, the employer must continue the employee’s health insurance coverage. The employee is required to pay in advance the amount of health insurance premiums required to maintain benefits during the period of leave.

What are my rights?

Both the FMLA and the RIPFMLA provide eligible employees with the right to take time off work to care for themselves or a loved one or to bond with a newborn or adopted child. Although leave under both statutes is unpaid, it is job-protected. This means that the employee must be restored to the same or an equivalent position upon his or her return from leave. In addition, the employer must continue to provide health insurance coverage to the employee during his or her leave. Retaliation against employees who take protected leave is also prohibited.

If I have been denied FMLA, what should I do?

There are a number of reasons why an employer may deny a request for FMLA leave. For example, smaller employers (i.e. less than 50 employees) are not subject to FMLA and are not required to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to their employees. A short-term employee may be denied FMLA leave for failing to meet statutory eligibility (e.g. 12 months of service for the employer, 1,250 hours actually worked during a 12 month period). The leave requested by the employee may be to care for a family member who falls outside the statute (e.g. an aunt or uncle). If an employee has been denied FMLA leave, he or she should consult with an attorney immediately to ensure that his or her rights under FMLA have not been violated. An attorney with FMLA experience will be able to clarify the reason or reasons for the denial and advise the employee of his or her rights.

Martineau Davis & Associates is committed to aggressive advocacy for our clients while maintaining the highest level of professionalism, integrity, and ethical standards. Contact us at 401-234-0751.

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