Our firm has worked with many clients who have been restricted in their use of FMLA benefits because of employer discouragement or interference. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) it is unlawful for an employer to discourage or interfere with a qualifying employee’s right to take an FMLA eligible leave of absence. So if your employer refuses to provide you 3 months of FMLA qualifying leave for pregnancy or qualifying illness or disability, even if you are not fired or disciplined, you may still have an FMLA claims.
The legal precedent supporting a claim for FMLA interference is extensive. There are numerous cases in which a plaintiff was able to bring an FMLA interference claim against an employer because the employer made negative or intimidating comments regarding leave or failed to provide eligible employees with more information about their legal rights, resulting in that employee being denied FMLA benefits. In other words, the employer does not have to explicitly deny an employee FMLA benefits in order for the employee to bring an “FMLA interference” claim. To bring an interference claim, there must be evidence that the employer’s actions would dissuade a “similarly situated” employee of “ordinary resolve” from exercising FMLA rights (Tomici v. New York City Dep’t of Educ.).
When an employee or an immediate family member of an employee becomes ill and requires extended medical treatment, it is the responsibility of the employee or a spokesperson of the employee to first notify the employer of the facts underlying the need to take a leave. The employee does not have to specifically mention the FMLA or refer to the statute when asking to take time off (Slaughter v. Am. Bldg. Maint. Co. of New York). Moreover, when the employer becomes aware that the employee may be FMLA eligible, the employer has a responsibility to seek out additional information from the employee and inform the employer of his rights under the FMLA (Kobus v. Coll. of St. Scholastica, Inc.).
If you have experienced a serious illness or disability, required leave for a pregnancy, or if you have needed to act as a caretaker for a loved one and were discouraged by your employer from taking FMLA eligible leave, contact an attorney who can help you assert your rights; you be able to bring a claim under the FMLA.