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FMLA Case Brings Employment Practices Liability to the Front


A pregnant worker in Atlanta was fired for requesting a leave of absence prior to her eligibility date, and the U.S. Department of Labor under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) ruled in her favor due to what they considered mitigating circumstances.

This brings up the question of whether an employer has been given sufficient notice of a request for leave of absence and what is the extent to which you, as an employer, must grant a leave of absence under FMLA rules and standards.

The U.S. Department of Labor currently has specific guidelines for enacting the Family Medical Leave Act. Eligible employees are entitled to:

>   Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:

  • the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
  • the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
  • care of the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
  • a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
  • any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty;” or

> Twenty-six workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness who is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin to the employee (military caregiver leave).

Lawsuits involving unfair business practices have become a common occurrence, as we previously discussed in prior blogs. Knowing the laws and any stipulations pertaining to the current practices in place are crucial in order to avoid litigation of this type.

While many businesses may come under scrutiny for their interpretation of these laws and their unwillingness to grant pregnant employees a leave of absence, based on whether or not they qualify based on hours served, it’s important to ensure that as an employer you’re not in violation of the FMLA standards. And while employees who become pregnant should, in most circumstances, be held to the same standards as workers who are not pregnant, there are instances that may prevent them from performing certain duties. Therefore it is a good idea to have a specialist on hand to determine whether or not they meet eligibility requirements.

At Axis Insurance, we can review with you the types of exposures you may be up against as an employer, no matter what the size of your firm. We also offer Employment Practices Liability insurance to protect against the types of losses of which you can find yourself a target. Just give us a call at: 877.787-5258.

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Blogged on: February 21, 2012 by Mike Smith
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