The Family and Medical Leave Act provided many benefits for employees when it became law in 1993. The main provision of the law entitled eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks off from work, in an unpaid status, for specified family and medical conditions.
The Act also codified several protections for employees in case of retaliation by employers.
Prohibited actions by employers under the FMLA
The U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division states that employers cannot interfere with any covered worker’s FMLA right. This specifically addresses steps to retaliate or intimidate an employee who wishes to assert his or her rights in the workplace.
The agency defines retaliation as the firing of a worker or other punitive action because a worker engages in a protected activity. This action could have a chilling effect on employee morale and could dissuade workers from exercising their rights.
Employees who take appropriate time off under the FMLA should retain all rights previously awarded in their work description. This includes maintaining health care through the company, as well as the expectation of the same work schedule. For example, a person who must take intermittent time off due to a medical condition, cannot legally face a decrease in hours.
Additional legal protections for workers
The FMLA makes up one of a list of protections workers hold. The Fair Labor Standards Act offers protections in the areas of minimum wage, overtime pay and youth employment on the federal, state and local levels.
The Employee Polygraph Protection Act prohibits the use of lie-detector tests for employment issues in certain cases. Individuals who suspect unfair labor practices should seek appropriate recourse measures.