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FMLA Lawsuit Settlements

Posted by Eric Kingsley | Jul 07, 2024 | 0 Comments

I've seen it happen far too many times - hardworking employees, denied their basic rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). It's a story we know all too well.

FMLA lawsuit on paper

But here's the thing: you don't have to take it lying down. You have the power to fight back against FMLA violations and secure the settlement you deserve. In California, the law is on your side.

So if you're ready to stand up for your rights and take action, keep reading. I'm here to guide you through every step of the process, from understanding your legal protections to navigating the complex world of FMLA lawsuit settlements in California.

Table of Contents:

Understanding FMLA Rights and Violations

If you're like most employees, you probably have a lot of questions about your rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). What exactly does the FMLA cover? Who's eligible for leave? And what happens if your employer violates your FMLA rights? As someone who's been through the FMLA process myself, I know firsthand how confusing and overwhelming it can be. But understanding your rights is crucial - it can mean the difference between keeping your job and losing it, between getting the time off you need and being denied leave.

What Constitutes an FMLA Violation?

So, what exactly counts as an FMLA violation? Well, there are a few common scenarios. Maybe your employer flat-out denies your request for FMLA leave, even though you're eligible. Or maybe they approve your leave, but then retaliate against you when you return to work - cutting your hours, demoting you, or even firing you. Other potential violations include:

  • Failing to reinstate you to the same or an equivalent job after your leave
  • Pressuring you to come back to work before your leave is up
  • Disciplining you for absences that should be covered by FMLA

If any of these situations sound familiar, there's a good chance your FMLA rights have been violated. And that's not something you should take lightly.

The Importance of Knowing Your Leave Rights

Here's the thing: too many employees don't fully understand their leave rights under the FMLA and similar state laws like the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). They might not realize they're eligible for leave, or they might be afraid to take time off because they fear retaliation. But the FMLA is there to protect you. If you or a family member are dealing with a serious health condition, you have the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. Your employer can't deny your leave request or punish you for taking time off. And in California, the CFRA actually goes beyond the FMLA in some ways. For example, it covers more family members (like domestic partners and adult children) and applies to smaller employers. So even if you're not covered by the FMLA, you might still have leave rights under state law. The bottom line? Educating yourself about your FMLA and CFRA rights is essential. That way, you'll know when your employer is crossing the line - and you'll be better equipped to stand up for yourself if your rights are violated.

Steps to Take When Facing an FMLA Violation

So, what should you do if you believe your FMLA rights have been violated? The first step is to document everything. Keep track of any requests for leave, any responses from your employer, and any adverse actions taken against you (like demotion or termination). It's also a good idea to gather any relevant medical records or other documentation that supports your need for leave. The more evidence you have, the stronger your case will be.

Gathering Evidence for Your Case

In addition to documenting your own experiences, there are other types of evidence that can be helpful in an FMLA case. This might include:

  • Witness statements from coworkers who can corroborate your account of events
  • Performance reviews or other employment records that show you were meeting expectations before taking leave
  • Emails or other written communications that demonstrate your employer's hostility toward your leave request

An experienced employment law attorney can help you gather and organize this evidence to build the strongest possible case.

Seeking Legal Assistance

Speaking of attorneys, if you believe your FMLA rights have been violated, it's crucial to seek legal assistance as soon as possible. An employment law attorney can review your case, advise you of your rights, and help you navigate the legal process. Many attorneys offer free initial consultations, so it's worth reaching out to a few to find someone you feel comfortable working with. And if you're worried about the cost of legal representation, keep in mind that many FMLA cases are taken on a contingency basis - meaning you don't pay unless you win.

Key Settlement Figures in FMLA Lawsuits

So, what kind of settlements can you expect in an FMLA lawsuit? The answer depends on a number of factors, including the severity of the violation, the strength of your evidence, and the skill of your legal team. According to a recent study, the average settlement for an FMLA case is around $80,000. However, some cases have resulted in much larger payouts. For example:

  • In 2019, a jury awarded a California woman $2.1 million in an FMLA retaliation case against her employer, a national home improvement chain.
  • In 2018, a Colorado woman was awarded $1.7 million in an FMLA interference and retaliation case against her former employer, a healthcare company.
  • In 2017, a New Jersey man was awarded $1.1 million in an FMLA retaliation case against his employer, a pharmaceutical company.

Of course, these are extreme examples - most FMLA cases settle for much less. But they demonstrate the potential value of these claims, especially when the employer's conduct is particularly egregious. It's also worth noting that, in addition to monetary damages, FMLA settlements may include other forms of relief, such as reinstatement to your job, a promotion, or a change in company policy. An experienced employment law attorney can help you negotiate a settlement that meets your individual needs and goals.

Employer Responsibilities Under FMLA

So, what exactly are employers required to do under the FMLA? The law sets out a number of specific responsibilities, including:

Providing Unpaid Leave for Eligible Employees

First and foremost, covered employers must provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for qualifying reasons. These reasons include:

  • The birth or adoption of a child
  • The employee's own serious health condition
  • The serious health condition of a spouse, parent, or child
  • Qualifying exigencies related to a family member's military service

Employers are also required to maintain the employee's health insurance coverage during their leave, as if they were still actively working.

Accommodating Employees' Health Conditions

In addition to providing leave, employers must also make reasonable accommodations for employees with serious health conditions. This could include things like modifying work schedules, providing assistive technology, or reassigning the employee to a vacant position. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against employees who exercise their FMLA rights. This means they can't fire, demote, or otherwise punish an employee for requesting or taking FMLA leave. If an employer fails to meet these obligations, they may be liable for FMLA interference or retaliation. Employees who have been denied leave or subjected to adverse employment actions because of their FMLA status may have a legal claim against their employer.

The Role of Human Resources in Managing Medical Leave

Human resources professionals play a critical role in managing medical leave and ensuring compliance with the FMLA and other leave laws. HR is often responsible for:

  • Developing and implementing leave policies
  • Communicating with employees about their leave rights and responsibilities
  • Processing leave requests and tracking leave usage
  • Coordinating with supervisors and managers to ensure coverage during an employee's absence
  • Ensuring that employees are reinstated to their jobs upon return from leave

One of the biggest challenges for HR professionals is navigating the complexities of medical leave requests. Employees may be reluctant to share personal health information, or they may not understand what documentation is required to support their request. HR must balance the employee's right to privacy with the employer's need for sufficient information to determine FMLA eligibility and make appropriate accommodations. This can be a delicate balancing act, and it requires strong communication and interpersonal skills.

Preventing Retaliation Against Employees on Leave

Another key responsibility of HR is to prevent retaliation against employees who take FMLA leave. This means ensuring that employees are not subjected to adverse employment actions, such as demotion, discipline, or termination, because of their leave status. HR can help prevent retaliation by:

  • Training supervisors and managers on FMLA requirements and anti-retaliation policies
  • Investigating any complaints of retaliation promptly and thoroughly
  • Taking appropriate disciplinary action against supervisors or managers who engage in retaliatory behavior
  • Communicating with employees on leave to ensure they feel supported and valued

By taking a proactive approach to preventing retaliation, HR can help create a culture of compliance and support for employees who need to take medical leave.

Successful Strategies for Resolving FMLA Disputes

If you find yourself in a dispute with your employer over FMLA leave, there are a number of strategies you can use to resolve the situation. The best approach will depend on the specific circumstances of your case, but some common strategies include:

Negotiating a Fair Settlement with Employers

In many cases, the best way to resolve an FMLA dispute is through negotiation. This involves sitting down with your employer (or their legal representative) and trying to reach a mutually agreeable resolution. Negotiation can be a good option if you're looking for a quick resolution and want to avoid the time and expense of litigation. An experienced employment law attorney can help you negotiate a fair settlement that compensates you for any lost wages, benefits, or other damages.

Leveraging Class Action Lawsuits for Widespread Violations

If your employer has a pattern or practice of violating the FMLA, you may be able to pursue a class action lawsuit. This is a type of legal action where a group of employees with similar claims join together to sue their employer. Class actions can be a powerful tool for holding employers accountable and achieving systemic change. They can also result in significant monetary settlements for the affected employees. However, class actions are complex and time-consuming, and they require a strong legal team with experience in this type of litigation. If you believe you may have a class action claim, it's important to speak with an attorney who can evaluate your case and advise you on the best course of action

 
Key Takeaway:

Know your FMLA rights to protect yourself from violations like denied leave or workplace retaliation in California. If in need, take advantage of a free consultation with our law firm.

Get Help From FMLA Attorneys

Pursuing an FMLA lawsuit settlement in California can be a daunting process, but remember - you're not alone. Armed with the right info, a strong support network, and plenty of grit, you can definitely make sure your employer pays up what they owe you.

Toss aside any hesitation or uncertainty; it shouldn't keep you from moving forward. Your rights matter, and it's time to take a stand. Whether you're facing retaliation, wrongful termination, or any other FMLA violation, know that you have the power to fight back and win.

For those who would like to hold their employers accountable and obtain compensation for their ordeal, give us a call or engage with our chat. We've be happy to help with a free consultation.

About the Author

Eric Kingsley

Eric B. Kingsley is a 2023 "Best In Law" Award winner and has litigated over 150 class actions. He is also an AV peer rated attorney and a prolific speaker at various seminars on employment law.

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