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FMLA grants some employees right to unpaid leave

In a complaint recently filed in the Florida 6th Judicial Circuit for Pinellas County, a man claims he was wrongfully terminated by his employer, as reported by the Florida Record. The man alleges that his dismissal constituted interference with leave afforded him under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as well as retaliation. The man alleges that he was terminated only after management learned that he had HIV.

According to the United States Department of Labor, FMLA provides unpaid leave for qualifying family and medical reasons in order to facilitate “balance” between “work and family life” for employees. Employers are obliged to clearly post the rights and duties under FMLA in a place where all employees can see. FMLA does not, however, apply to every employer. Only public agencies, local, State, and Federal employers, schools, and private business that employ 50 or more employees are required to provide leave under FMLA. Furthermore, not all employees qualify for FMLA. Certain criteria must be met to be eligible.

Once an employee meets basic criteria, he or she may be permitted a certain amount of unpaid leave or intermittent leave, a schedule reduction, or paid leave as a substitute for unpaid leave. Leave is permissible in order to accommodate a serious health condition, the birth of a child, adoption of a child, or care of a newborn. In order to ensure integrity of the process, an employer may require an employee to obtain a medical certification of his or her serious health condition. Among the benefits of FMLA leave is the retention of health benefits under the employer’s group health insurance plan.

As with many laws, there are exceptions. Under the FMLA, an employer is not required to restore an employee who has taken leave if that employee qualifies as a “key” employee under the Act. If so, the employer must notify the employee in writing and list with requisite specificity the reasons why allowing the employee to return would result in a “substantial and grievous economic injury” to the employer’s business. 

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