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Can an Employer Deny FMLA Leave?

Duwel Law  Nov. 24, 2022

Page with FMLA family medical leave act on a table.The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted in 1993 to provide unpaid leave for employees facing serious health issues or to care for family members with serious health conditions. The coverage has expanded over the decades, but for the most part, it guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave for eligible employees facing certain circumstances.  

The FMLA applies to all employers with 50 or more employees in a 75-mile radius. For example, a fast-food chain operator who has three locations within a 75-mile radius with 20 employees each must honor FMLA leave requests. For employees to qualify, they must have worked for the employer for at least 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months. However, for seasonal workers and others, the months do not have to be consecutive.  

Employers have little or no leeway in implementing the standards of the law. If you feel you have been denied your right to FMLA leave in or around Dayton, Ohio, contact us at Duwel Law today for reliable legal action. Our employment law attorneys will review your situation with you and advise you of your legal options going forward, including the potential for a lawsuit if warranted. We proudly serve clients throughout Montgomery County, Miami County, Greene County, Darke County, and Warren County, Ohio. 

Basics of the FMLA 

The eligibility requirements for both employers and employees were outlined above. To clarify FMLA leave, however, an eligible employee can take 12 weeks of unpaid leave every 12 months. Employers can compute this by using a calendar year or a year based on eligibility and last use.  

One of the upgrades to the FMLA is called “military caregiver leave,” which affords employees up to 26 weeks to care for a seriously ill or injured servicemember. The eligible employee has to be the servicemember’s spouse, daughter, son, parent, or next of kin.  

Also, leave can be intermittent. Intermittent means that the employee takes the leave in segments say one or two days a week, or even half a day here and there. Also, though it is not a provision of the FMLA, the employer can require employees to use their earned paid leave as part of the unpaid time off. 

Qualifying for FMLA 

FMLA covers not only serious illnesses but also other events like childbirth or adoption. The Department of Labor (DOL), which oversees and enforces the FMLA, states the reasons for taking 12-week leave are:  

  • For the birth of a son or daughter to bond with the newborn child. 

  • For the placement of a child for adoption or foster care to bond with the child. 

  • To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent – but not a parent “in-law”) with a serious health condition.  

  • To take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition or; 

  • For qualifying exigencies arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status as a member of the National Guard, Reserves, or Regular Armed Forces. 

Medical Certification 

For a serious health condition, the employer is allowed to request certification by a health care provider. The employer must allow at least 15 days for the employee to comply. In addition, the employer, if they deem the certification to be incomplete, can request further information in writing but must give the employee seven days to respond. Subsequently, the employer can request follow-up medical certifications, but they have to pay for them. 

Can an Employer Deny FMLA Leave? 

The DOL website on the FMLA states directly that a “covered employer must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12 month period” for any of the reasons cited above. The same holds true if military caregiver leave is requested and meets the eligibility standards. Notice the word “must.” That’s crucial.  

The only way an employer can legitimately deny an FMLA leave request is if the employee does not meet the work standard of 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months or if the employer has fewer than 50 employees in a 75-mile radius and is thus not required to offer FMLA leave. 

Legal Advocacy When You Need It Most 

If you have been turned down for FMLA leave and believe you are eligible, contact the employment law attorneys at Duwel Law. We will fight for you and your rights.  

Also, if you believe you have been retaliated against for taking FMLA – for example, given a lesser position or denied other benefits upon returning from leave -- reach out to us as well.  

Our team at Duwel Law has more than 50 years of hard-earned experience helping clients pursue fair resolutions and favorable outcomes to a variety of challenges, including FMLA leave. We proudly serve clients in Dayton, Montgomery County, Miami County, Greene County, Darke County, and Warren County, Ohio.