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Can My Employer Deny FMLA Leave?

Law Offices of Charles P. Boylston May 2, 2023

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) became law in 1993, allowing employees at certain qualifying firms to take unpaid leave to care for their own health or the health of family members, or to bond with a new family member through birth, adoption, or foster care. 

The federal legislation applies to any business with 50 or more employees in a 75-mile radius. This means that a fast-food operator or other business owner who has several operations within that radius is subject to the law.  

For an employee to qualify for the 12 weeks of unpaid leave available, he or she must have worked for 12 months for the business and logged at least 1,250 hours of work. The 12 months do not have to be consecutive, so seasonal workers are also eligible. 

Even though the FMLA specifies health and other conditions that trigger the potential for FMLA leave, this does not mean the qualification for leave is automatic. The employer can request medical certification, and based on the evidence, can grant or deny the request for leave. Of course, the employee can then appeal the decision if leave is not granted. 

If you as an employee in or around Temecula, California, have been denied FMLA leave and wish to challenge the decision, contact us at the Law Offices of Charles P. Boylston. Our employment law attorney will help you exercise your full rights to leave under the FMLA. We also proudly serve clients throughout Southern California, including Riverside County, Orange County, San Diego County, and Los Angeles County. 

Who Qualifies for FMLA Leave?

The basic requirement to qualify for FMLA leave is to work for a company with 50 or more workers in a 75-mile radius and to have been an employee for 12 months with at least 1,250 hours logged during that period (which does not have to be consecutive). So, reason number one for being denied FMLA leave is that you have not met the work requirement and/or the business does not meet the employee threshold. 

Which Circumstances Qualify for FMLA Leave?

The FMLA allows for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under different circumstances, but note that your employer can require you to take your earned paid leave as part of the 12 weeks. The first circumstance to qualify for FMLA is a serious health condition, either yours or your spouse’s, a child’s, or a parent’s for whom you must provide care.  

Generally, a serious health condition is one that is considered incapacitating. If you are applying for FMLA leave for yourself, the condition must be one that prevents you from performing the prescribed duties of your job. Pregnancy also falls under the leave category. You can also take FMLA to bond with a new child or with an adopted or foster care child, but the leave must be taken within one year of the child’s birth or placement. 

After the enactment of the FMLA in 1993, military family leave provisions were added, allowing you to take leave related to certain military deployments. In addition, the expanded FMLA allows an employee to take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness. 

The 12 weeks—or 26 weeks for military care—do not have to be consecutive. For instance, if you or a family member requires treatment one day a week, you can take FMLA leave on that day each week. 

Can My Employer Require Medical Certification and Deny My Leave?

When you request FMLA leave, your employer can indeed require you to submit medical certification from your health care provider. If your employer does make such a request, you have 15 days to comply and must pay for the certification yourself. When the certification is submitted, the employer can make a judgment as to whether your condition warrants FMLA leave and has five days to notify you.  

If your employer finds the medical certification insufficient, you have seven days to provide any additional information requested. If leave is granted, your employer can then request recertification (a second or even a third medical opinion) but must pay for it. In other words, insufficient medical certification can result in your leave request being denied, or even curtailed after being granted if further medical evidence does not justify your leave. 

Protections Under the FMLA

If you are granted leave, you will be able to continue your company-sponsored health insurance, but you must continue to pay your part of the premium. In addition, when you return from leave, your employer must return you to your same position or a similar one with the same pay and benefits. Retaliation is against the law. 

Compassionate Legal Assistance

If you as an employee in Southern California have been denied your leave rights under the FMLA, or have been retaliated against for using FMLA, contact us immediately at the Law Offices of Charles P. Boylston.  

We will fight for your rights under the law and help you correct the situation. We treat each client with understanding and compassion and will explain your options in plain-language terms. Reach out with all your questions and concerns about FMLA leave.