Articles Posted in Family Medical Leave Act

Employee handbooks typically outline an employer’s expectations, as well as the consequences an employee may expect if they fail to meet the employer’s expectations. However, employee handbooks may also outline other important information, including:

  • an employer’s overtime policy;
  • the benefits offered by the employer;
  • various types of leave available to employees;
  • guidelines for employee performance reviews;
  • the expected process for an employee to resign from their position; and
  • policies for promotion, termination, and transfers.

Employees should be able to rely on the language in the handbook and be confident that, if they avoid the prohibited conduct listed in the handbook, they will not be unfairly disciplined or terminated. Similarly, an employee should be able to rely on the listed benefits and procedures outlined in an employee handbook throughout the course of their employment. However, that is not always the case.

Routinely, Texas employers terminate employees for conduct not listed as prohibited or discouraged in an employee handbook. Similarly, it is not uncommon for an employer to renege on the benefits mentioned in an employee handbook or otherwise not follow the procedures outlined in an employee handbook. When this occurs, an employee may be able to pursue an employment claim against their employer.

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In today’s society, more people realize the value in maintaining a manageable work-life balance. And with healthcare costs continually on the rise, now more than ever prospective employees are looking beyond a position’s salary when seeking employment. Because of this, employers realize they must provide a comprehensive and attractive benefits package to recruit and retain quality employees.

A major issue for many employees is an employer’s policy for personal time off (PTO). Paid time off, or personal time off, is generally accrued as an employee works. While employers often allow employees to use PTO for the year before they actually accrue it (to avoid everyone using their PTO at the end of the year) many employees accrue more PTO than they use. This often results in an employee having a surplus of PTO.

When it comes time to leave a job, many employees wonder whether they must be paid out for their remaining unused PTO. Given that many employees carry large balances of PTO, the payout an employee receives upon their termination can be considerable. Employers may try to limit the amount of PTO they pay an employee upon termination; however, this is not always allowed.

In some cases, an employer may ask a returning employee to take a fitness-for-duty examination to ensure that the employee is mentally and physically able to perform the tasks of their job. However, these fitness-for-duty exams can be intrusive and may reveal confidential information about an employee’s disability. Generally speaking, an employer’s ability to request a fitness-for-duty examination depends both on the nature of the injury that necessitated the employee’s leave as well as the specific functions of the employee’s job. When the employee’s underlying condition is one that qualifies as a “disability” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are limited in their ability to require fitness-for-duty examinations.

The ADA defines a disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” If the reason for the employee’s leave was not considered a disability under the ADA, and the employee’s condition is one that could reasonably affect their ability to perform their job, then employers generally will have broad discretion in requiring a fitness-for-duty examination. However, even when an employer is able to require a fitness-for-duty examination, the employer must follow the procedural requirements outlined in 29 CFR § 825.310. This includes providing adequate notice to the employee as well as a list of the “essential functions” of the employee’s position. Of course, a fitness-for-duty exam can only be required as it relates to the specific health condition that caused the employee’s absence.

When an employee suffers from a disability as classified by the ADA that necessitates they take FMLA leave, an employer can only request a fitness-for-duty examination if the examination is related to the employee’s job and is required by business necessity. Typically, this requires that an employer be able to show that the employee’s condition either prevents them from performing the necessary functions of their job or that the employee poses a direct threat to their own safety of the safety of others. Importantly, an employer’s belief must be based on concrete facts, rather than stereotypes or assumptions about an employee’s condition. For example, an employer could not require a fitness-for-duty examination for a returning employee who suffered from debilitating depression based on the belief that all people who suffer from depression present a potential risk in the workplace.

Having a child, especially your first, is an exciting time but also one that presents seemingly endless questions and challenges. One of the most common concerns for all new parents is how to juggle their careers with the new responsibilities of being a parent to a newborn child. Inevitably, parents will have to figure out who will stay home with the baby, for how long, and what impact this will have on the family’s finances.

Over the past few decades, the traditional fixed gender roles of parents have progressed. This welcome change has recognized both a mother’s valuable role outside the home as a breadwinner, as well as a father’s role at home with the children. Along with this shift, lawmakers are beginning to address a father’s need or desire to stay home with his newborn baby and also to take care of the mother .

Texas, unfortunately, is somewhat behind the curve as it pertains to paid paternity leave. In fact, only a few states currently offer paid paternity leave. Of course, this does not stop an employer from offering paid paternity leave on their own. And if an employer chooses to make paid paternity leave available for some employees, it must be provided in a non-discriminate manner without regard to an employee’s age, race, or religion. Unpaid paternity leave is a different matter and is available to many Texas fathers under the federal government’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

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For many Texas employees, monetary pay is only a part of the overall compensation package offered by employers. For employees who have children or care for a sick family member, the paid- and unpaid-leave benefits provided by many employers are just as important as one’s salary or wages. Unfortunately, Texas employers are not required under any state or federal law to provide paid-leave benefits to employees, except under certain circumstances.

As a general rule, a Texas employer can decide whether to offer benefits to its employees. There are times, however, where an employer is required to provide certain benefits to its employees. One example is where an employer’s written policy provides benefits to employees, but the employer denies a qualifying employee access to these benefits. The Texas Payday Law states that an agreement to provide paid or unpaid leave is an enforceable term of the wage agreement. Thus, an employer who may not be required by law to offer benefits becomes obligated to provide them if there is a written policy offering benefits to qualifying employees.

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As substance abuse continues to affect a record number of people, employees should be encouraged to pursue rehabilitation programs. However, many are reluctant to seek the treatment they need for a multitude of reasons, including the societal stigma associated with addiction, as well as the financial toll it can take on the individual and their family. If you are considering taking leave from work for a health-related reason, you may want to speak to an employment attorney so you know all of your options.

In addition, individuals are often afraid that seeking treatment may mean attending an inpatient facility, which means they cannot work. Employees may fear that taking leave from their employment to pursue and complete drug treatment may result in them facing adverse employment action or discrimination, ultimately resulting in termination or demotion. However, it is important that both employees and employers know that the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects those seeking substance abuse treatment from a health-care provider.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The FMLA is a federal law that was passed in 1993 which allows individuals to care for themselves and certain family members for a discrete period of time if they are suffering certain medical conditions. The law was enacted to provide individuals with job security and healthcare during these difficult periods.

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The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Civil Rights Act) was monumental in that it provided crucial rights to many people who had been denied equal treatment for many years. While the Act prohibited discrimination based on certain bases, other bases were left uncovered. One area of Texas employment discrimination the Civil Rights Act did not solve was pregnancy discrimination. Following the Civil Rights Act, employers continued to discriminate against women on the basis of their pregnancy. When it came time to explain their seemingly discriminatory behavior, employers routinely claimed they were basing their actions not on the sex of the employee (which was prohibited under the Act) but instead on the fact that the employee was pregnant. This was an unfortunate but accepted distinction for 14 years.

In 1978, however, things changed for the better with the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978. Technically, the PDA was an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The text of the PDA was short, and the message was straightforward. Essentially, discrimination on the basis of “pregnancy, child birth, or related medical conditions” was considered sex discrimination. Thus, an employer could no longer discriminate on the basis of an employee’s pregnant status, since doing so would amount to sex discrimination.

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In 1993, Congress adopted the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This federal law was enacted to provide certain employees with 12 workweeks of unpaid leave each year without the risk of being terminated. Public agencies, such as local, state, and federal employers, and local school employers must comply with the Act. Additionally, private employers who have 50 or more employees for at least 20 workweeks per year must also comply with the Act. This federal law is applicable in Texas FMLA claims based on discriminatory conduct.Generally, the FMLA can be used by eligible employees in the following situations:

  • When an employee cannot work because of a serious medical issue,
  • To care for an immediate family member who has a serious medical issue,

Some fathers can take paternity leave. If you are a soon-to-be father expecting a baby in Texas, you may be concerned about the future and whether or not your employer is required to give you paternity leave. Those who work for small employers in Texas may not be able to get paternity leave.

However, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees of covered employers to take a non-compensated leave for particular family and medical reasons, such as the birth of a child or to care for a newborn during his first year. It also allows this paternity leave if a child for foster care or adoption is being placed with the employee within one year of placement. This leave is job-protected. The employer is required to continue providing group health insurance under the same terms and conditions as if the employee hadn’t taken leave.

Your employer needs to give you 12 weeks of unpaid paternity leave after your partner has a baby or you adopt a child if:  (1) it has 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or prior calendar year, and (2) you’re eligible because you’ve worked for the company for at least 12 months, have a minimum of 1,250 hours of service during the 12-month period just before the paternity leave, and work at a site where the company has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.

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Half of the workforce is female, but only 12% of women have paid maternity leave, according to the United States Department of Labor. The United States is the only industrialized country around the globe that doesn’t require employers to provide paid maternity leave, even though studies show health benefits to children, mothers, and fathers when parental leave is provided. Paid maternity and paternity leave make sense both economically and from the standpoint of health.

Infant mortality is reduced by up to 10% in 141 countries with paid leave policies. This leave allows for infants to receive necessary medical care and vaccinations during one of their most vulnerable times of life.

Parental leave also increases how long mothers feel comfortable breastfeeding. Mothers who receive paid leave breastfeed for twice as long as those who don’t get leave. Since breastfeeding decreases the likelihood of infection, asthma, obesity, and SIDS, there are benefits for the health care system in improving the chances of a mother being able to breastfeed comfortably for a longer duration.

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