How to Win an FMLA Lawsuit

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The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles most employees to 12 weeks of unpaid time off from work to address major life events and emergency medical situations. The law prohibits employers from interfering with an employee's exercise of rights, or to subject the employee to adverse consequences. When FMLA rights are violated by an employer, a clear understanding of the law's specific requirements is imperative to winning a lawsuit and receiving an award for damages. (See References 1)

Legal Elements of the FMLA

Consult Section 101 of the FMLA to insure that you are an "eligible employee." To qualify as an eligible employee, you must have been employed by the employer for a total of 12 months and have provided a minimum of 1,250 hours of service in the 12 month period immediately preceding your leave. Certain federal officers and employees are omitted from this definition regardless of the amount of time employed. (See References 1)

Read Section 102 of the FMLA to evaluate whether the type of leave you requested is protected under the law. You are protected under the FMLA if your request for leave is due to the birth or adoption of a child, to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition, or because a serious health condition makes you incapable of performing the functions of your job. Serious health conditions also include mental illnesses. (See References 1 and 2)

Research the federal regulation to determine if your employer is a "covered employer." Only covered employers will be accountable for FMLA violations. A covered employer must be involved in commerce and employ a minimum of 50 employees for each working day for any 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year. (See References 3)

Make a list of all events that constitute violations by your employer. Actionable violations of the FMLA include rejections of valid leave requests, failure to restore an employee to the same position, salary, and benefits, revocation of benefits that accrued before the leave of absence, and discriminating against an employee that exercises her rights to FMLA benefits. (See References 1 and 4)

Calculate the damages you are entitled to as a result of the violation. Employers may be liable for wages and benefits lost or denied to you, 12 weeks of salary for additional expenses incurred as a result of the violation, and interest accrued until damages are collected. If your employer did not have reasonable grounds for its actions or did not act in good faith, your monetary award can be doubled. (See References 1)

Draft your complaint and file it at federal court within the proscribed time limitations. You must file your complaint with the court within two years of the last event constituting a violation. If the violation was done willfully by your employer, the filing deadline is extended to three years. (See References 1)


  • Check your state and municipality's laws to determine if broader protection and increased damages are available as an alternative to the FMLA.


  • Check with the court's pro se office for procedural guidance and other rules specific to that court.


About the Author

Jeff Franco's professional writing career began in 2010. With expertise in federal taxation, law and accounting, he has published articles in various online publications. Franco holds a Master of Business Administration in accounting and a Master of Science in taxation from Fordham University. He also holds a Juris Doctor from Brooklyn Law School.

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