3 common FMLA mistakes that can lead to a worker claim

On Behalf of | Jan 12, 2023 | Employment Law For Employers |

Employers have to know and comply with all state and federal employment laws. There are many rules that place a burden on employers by requiring them to absorb certain expenses or losses. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a perfect example. 

The FMLA protects the rights of workers to take unpaid leave, but it passes the costs related to someone missing work on to the company even if they don’t have to pay the worker’s wages during their leave. The business may need to train someone else or hire a temporary worker, which can be very inconvenient and expensive.

However, failing to comply with the FMLA will be a much bigger problem for your company, as it could lead to an expensive employment law claim. What are some of the more common reasons that workers allege that a company violated their FMLA rights? 

  1. Denying a worker leave when they qualify

There are typically three scenarios in which a worker can request FMLA leave. They have the right to request unpaid leave if they require time off for their own health, if they must support an immediate family member during a medical issue or when they have just added a child to the family. 

Employers who are large enough for the FMLA to apply and who received leave requests from workers with a long enough employment history to qualify under the FMLA could face claims if they deny their worker the leave they require.

  1. Terminating a worker for requesting leave

If you notice that a worker has a slump in their job performance after they return from FMLA leave, you may eventually decide to let them go because of their performance issues.

While you may feel justified in your decision, the timing of the termination might look like retaliation and FMLA non-compliance. Carefully documenting issues with a worker after FMLA leave will be important if you want to avoid claims of retaliation.

  1. Demoting a worker or cutting their pay

If an employee requests leave and previously held a first-shift managerial position, you will have to do your best to keep them in the same position or a comparable one.

When a worker can claim that their wages dropped, their schedules changed or their position in the company declined after their FMLA leave, they may have grounds to take civil action against their employer for what may look like retaliation or discrimination. As with the termination following a worker’s leave or leave request, timing and documentation are both important regarding the optics of the situation. 

Learning more about behaviors that may lead to workers claiming you violated their rights can help you reduce your liability as an employer.