Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Law Firm

Employees are often surprised to learn at how limited the laws are that protect employees from being terminated, demoted, or otherwise negatively treated by an employer due to a medical leave issue. In Missouri, the only real protection that an employee has is the federal Family Medical Leave Act or FMLA.

Under Missouri employment law, an employee can be terminated at any time for good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all. This “at-will employment doctrine includes even medical emergencies. Further, employees are often shocked to learn that the Missouri employment security (or unemployment) law will prevent an employee from receiving unemployment benefits if the employee is fired due to a medical issue that is not related to the employee’s job. Given this set of circumstances in Missouri the FMLA is an important protection provided by federal law.

Who is covered by the FMLA?

Under the FMLA, a covered employee is allowed up to 12-weeks of protected medical leave each calendar year. Unfortunately, the FMLA only applies in certain circumstances. First, the employee has to be a covered employee for a covered employer. To be eligible, the employee must have worked for the employer for a total of 12 months (though they do not necessarily have to be 12 consecutive months). The worker must have also worked at least 1,250 hours in 12 months prior to the beginning of the protected medical leave. Finally, the employee must work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees in a 75 mile radius.

Of course, many employers are quite reasonable in how they handle medical leave. Employee turnover is a very expensive prospect for employers and employers are economically incentivized to work with employees to keep the employee in the job so long as the employee’s medical leave does not interfere with the work more than can be sustained.

When does the FMLA apply?

If the employee is covered, then the question becomes whether the reason for the leave is a covered event. The FMLA protects leave that is taken for:

  • The birth of a newborn child;
  • The addition of a new child in the household through adoption or as foster care;
  • To care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent with a serious health condition;
  • For the employees own serious health condition; and
  • Certain issues arising from a spouse, son, daughter, or parents service in the National Guard or armed services reserve.

FMLA leave related to the birth, adoption, or placement of a new child in the family applies to both the mother and the father.
What is a serious health condition?

A serious health condition is defined in the FMLA regulations as:

  • Inpatient care;
    • Three or more days of incapacity from working which includes:
    • Two or more doctors visits or one doctor visit and ongoing treatment (e.g., physical therapy or prescription medication). The first doctors visit must be within 7 days of the beginning of the incapacity and the second within 30 days;
  • Related to pregnancy or prenatal care;
  • Chronic serious health conditions that require treatment at least twice per year;
  • Permanent conditions that care may not be effective for; or
  • Related to restorative surgery or for a condition that would result in a period of incapacity for more than three days if left untreated.

How long does the FMLA provide protection?

An important limitation of the FMLA is it only lasts for 12 weeks. If an employee is out on medical leave for 12 weeks and one day, the employee’s leave is no longer protected in the employee may be subject to discipline, even termination, due to the leave lasting longer than the allowable 12 week.

Can a FMLA attorney help?

If you have questions about your rights under the FMLA, the employment law attorneys of Lear Werts can help to answer your questions. Our law firm has helped people both to secure their rights while keeping their job and have helped people who have been wrongfully terminated or otherwise retaliated against for exercising their FMLA rights. Call 573-875-1991 for your free consultation.