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Ways that employers may block your right to medical or family leave

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employers with more than 50 employees are required to give eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to handle a serious illness of their own, or one in their immediate family. The FMLA also provides for time off after the birth or adoption of a child, giving parents time to recover physically and bond emotionally.

While the leave is unpaid, health insurance benefits must stay in place. Also, your job must be available to you upon your return, or a comparable job must be made available to you. Here in California, we also have the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) which reinforces the protections of the FMLA. We should be more than covered, right? At least, that's the intent. But unfortunately, not all employers play by the rules. 

Employers may behave in a number of ways that create roadblocks for you if you're attempting to file for leave under the act. Some may feel intentional. Employers might try to:

  • Talk you out of using your leave or act in a way to refuse you the right to ask for it by changing the subject, delaying the request-in short, putting you off
  • Take disciplinary action against you after you request leave, whether by retaliation, demotion or harassment
  • Deny promotions to you or terminate you
  • Ask for prohibited medical information from you

Perhaps you're the first employee who has requested leave under the FMLA in a while, or it's the first time for the manager you report to. Managers may also make unintentional mistakes of a less harmful nature, such as:

While those aren't fatal flaws, they still violate your rights. Whether they're deliberate or accidental, the above actions could impede your ability to get the leave you're entitled to. The FMLA and the CFRA exist to protect you. Taking time off under FMLA also requires that you do your homework, of course. Learn what's required and avoid mistakes on your end as well.

If you run into problems, talk to an attorney experienced in employment law about your options going forward. 

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