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When managers refuse to cooperate with FMLA leave requests

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for qualifying employees. Workers can take this leave to care for their own serious health condition or that of a family member, to bond with a new addition to the family, or to deal with certain exigencies arising out of a family member's active-duty military service. More unpaid leave is available to care for injured or ill military family members.

This leave is job-protected. Your employer must hold your job open until you return from FMLA leave or provide you with an equivalent job with the same pay and benefits.

Retaliation is prohibited. Your employer cannot lawfully interfere with, restrain or deny your effort to exercise your FLMA rights. It cannot discriminate against you or terminate you for taking FMLA leave.

With that in mind, two experts recently spoke at a Society for Human Resource Management conference about six common ways managers violate the FMLA. Have you encountered any of these?

6 common scenarios that could violate the FMLA

You ask for leave but your boss doesn't seem to understand. Managers shouldn't need to hear the phrase "FMLA leave" to know it's being requested. FMLA leave applies to serious health conditions, while sick days are generally used for short-term illnesses. When a manager drops the ball on FMLA leave, it could be considered unlawful interference or restraint.

Your boss fails to follow up with HR. Your boss could just be lazy, but the effect could be unlawful interference with your leave.

Your boss gives a list of reasons why your leave would be inconvenient. Whatever the motivation, this gives the impression of unlawful restraint of your lawful FLMA rights.

You take FMLA leave but your boss tries to badger you into working. No work can be required during FMLA leave, although it's OK to contact the employee with short questions. You should never be required to come in during leave and any work you do should be minimal and completely voluntary.

Your boss gets nasty. Managers sometimes blame work problems on people who take leave. They may cite it as the reason for a demotion or bring up your health concerns in front of other employees. This may constitute retaliation under the FMLA and may also violate the Americans With Disabilities Act.

You are terminated. Some managers do fire people for taking leave. Any termination occurring during or shortly after a leave should be investigated for possible retaliation.

We hope your FMLA leave is quickly granted and leads to no adverse consequences. If you run into trouble, an employment law attorney can help.

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