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Family & Medical Leave Act and ERISA Rights

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It is unlawful under the FMLA for any employer to interfere with, restrain, or deny any right provided to an employee by the Act. Similarly, the FMLA also makes it unlawful for employers to terminate or otherwise discriminate against an employee in retaliation for the employee exercising, or attempting to exercise, his or her rights under the FMLA.

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If you applied for or were denied time off for a family-related or medical leave absence, or you believe you were subjected to retaliation because you exercised your FMLA rights, we can help! Call (888) 315-8771 to schedule your free case evaluation.

What is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted in 1993 to create protections for employees who need to take leave from their employment when family or health-related problems arise—without fear of losing their job.

Under the FMLA, eligible employees are entitled to take up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for reasons including, but not necessarily limited to the following:

  • The birth of a child, or the placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care.
  • To care for a spouse, child, or parent who has from a “serious health condition.”
  • For a “serious health condition” that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job.
  • Any qualifying emergency arising from the fact that a spouse, child, or parent is a military member on active duty or call to covered active duty status.

In many cases, employees may take FMLA leave on an “intermittent,” or reduced schedule basis, which means that the employee may take time off in separate blocks of time—versus taking 12 consecutive weeks off—or by reducing the hours the employee works each week.

What is ERISA and COBRA?

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) is a federal law passed in 1974 that was designed to regulate the distribution of private health care and pension plans as a means of protecting employees against employer misappropriation. ERISA requires the full disclosure of plan features and funding, financial accountability from plan managers, and a grievance process for appealing decisions which you disagree with. Additionally, under any ERISA covered plan, you are entitled to a “Summary Plan Description” that outlines the provision of the plan.

Significantly, the COBRA—the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act--health benefit provisions amended ERISA and require that group health plans provide a temporary continuation of group health coverage that otherwise might be terminated. More specifically, COBRA requires continuation coverage to be offered to covered employees, their spouses, and dependent children when group health care will be lost due to certain “qualifying events,” most commonly the termination of an individual’s employment.

If you are entitled to elect COBRA coverage, you must be given an election period of at least 60 days, which period is measured starting on the later of either the date you are given the election notice or the date you would lose coverage, in order to choose whether or not to elect continuation coverage. An employer that is subject to COBRA’s requirements is required to notify its group health plan administrator within 30 days after an employee’s employment is terminated, or employment hours are reduced. Within 14 days of that notification, the plan administrator is required to send out the election notice to the individual of his or her COBRA rights. Significantly, Plan Administrators who fail to provide the Notice mandated by COBRA face liability to an employee (or the beneficiary, if different) for monetary damages of $100.00 per day from the date that the Notice was required to have been issued, plus attorneys’ fees and costs.

Together, the FMLA and ERISA provide important workplace protections for most U.S. employees, but their existence alone does not guarantee compliance. As a result, if you believe your employer failed to comply with federal law, speak to a Miami employment law attorney to learn more about your rights.

For answers regarding FMLA, ERISA, or COBRA questions, contact the Law Office of Keith M. Stern, P.A. for a free case evaluation in Miami.

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