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Employee eligibility for FMLA

California employees who need to take medical leave may wonder what kind of rights they have under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. In some cases, an employer will try to deny an employee their FMLA rights or terminate the employee after the employee claims those rights. However, courts will sometimes side with the employee in these cases.

For example, in one case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit awarded an employee $160,000 after she was dismissed from her job. The woman began her job on Nov. 17, 2008. The following November, her physician said she should work only 20 hours per week after she began suffering from abdominal pain. After she gave her doctor's note to her employer on Friday, Nov. 13, 2009, managers decided to terminate her employment but did not inform her until the following Monday. Because that date marked one year of her employment, the court ruled that she was eligible for FMLA protection.

In another case, an employee successfully contested the rule requiring an employee to work 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months. That employee argued that the time clock at work had shown discrepancies before and could not be relied upon to accurately reflect time worked. The federal district court that heard the case agreed and did not dismiss her FMLA claim.

Individuals who feel they are eligible for FMLA and have been denied, disciplined or fired due to claiming that eligibility may want to work with an attorney. The employee may be eligible to receive back pay as well as certain damages. As the time clock case demonstrates, even if the employer appears to have a clear-cut case, this is not always necessarily true, and an employee may be protected against things like inaccurate timekeeping or record keeping that does not reflect their actual employment period.

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