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Medical Leave Disputes, Discrimination and Harassment

Maine Lawyers Serving Employees Involved in Medical Leave Disputes

Emergencies beyond our control happen in all of our lives, and each of us needs time to cope with them. No matter how dedicated you are to your work, moments will arise when you need to temporarily leave your job to handle a serious medical issue affecting your family or you. Federal law gives you the right to receive unpaid leave in these circumstances, since taking care of your health or the well-being of your loved ones always comes first. If you have been denied leave to handle a serious medical issue or personal emergency, you should consult the Portland medical leave lawyers at the Maine Employee Rights Group. For over two decades, we have worked to protect the rights of workers involved in these disputes and other forms of employment discrimination.

The Family and Medical Leave Laws Protect Your Rights

Many employees may receive unpaid leave to deal with significant family events or medical issues under state and federal family and medical leave laws. Typically, these situations extend to:

  • A serious illness or medical condition that prevents the employee from performing the key functions of his or her job;
  • A serious health condition of a spouse, child, or parent that requires the employee to care for them;
  • An emergency related to a spouse, child, or parent on active military duty;
  • The birth of a child and the care required for a newborn child; and
  • Placement and care for a newly adopted or foster care child.
Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA)

If you are covered by the federal FMLA, you may receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in any 12-month period. You may be entitled to additional medical leave beyond 12 weeks if your continued absence from work is due to a disability. (See our Disability Discrimination page for more information medical leave as an accommodation for a disability.) Moreover, a related provision for military caregiver leave gives workers up to 26 weeks of leave during a 12-month period if they need to care for next-of-kin service members struggling with a serious injury or illness.

Your employer cannot fire you, demote you, or take any other adverse action toward you in retaliation for taking medical leave. Adverse actions can extend to taking away a worker’s health insurance and other benefits or shifting the worker to a different position, even if it does not result in a demotion or a decrease in pay. Any employer that retaliates against an employee taking unpaid medical leave may be liable for violating the FMLA.

However, it is important to note that this law does not cover every worker . Small employers generally are not subject to the FMLA, and many part-time employees and relatively new employees cannot invoke its protections. To fall within the purview of the FMLA, an employer must be a public agency or employ 50 or more workers within 75 miles of the place of employment. Eligible employees also must have worked for their current employer for at least one year and have worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer within the last year.

Maine Family Medical Leave Requirements law (FMLR)

The Maine FMLR differs from the federal FMLA in several significant ways. Some of them include:

Who is covered: The Maine FMLR covers people who work for an employer with 15 or more workers at one location, any state agency, or any city, town or municipal agency that has 25 or more workers. To be eligible, you must have worked for the same employer for 12 months in a row before taking this leave.

Family events and medical issues that are eligible include:

  • The serious health condition of domestic partners, the children of domestic partners or a sibling who lives with the employee as well as the employee, a spouse, child or parent;
  • The birth or adoption of a child f a child to the employee, a spouse or domestic partner;
  • The adoption of a child who is 16 or younger;
  • Donating an organ for transplant; and
  • The death or serious injury due to military service of a family member.

Length of leave: If you are covered by the Maine FMLR, you may receive up to 10 weeks of unpaid leave in any two year period.

Medical Leave Rights Even If You do not Qualify for Leave Under the FMLA or FMLR

Individuals who have serious medical conditions who need leave but who are not eligible for protected leave under the FMLA or FMLR may still be entitled to take medical leave under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and/or the Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA). Both the ADA and the MHRA require employers to provide protected medical leave as an accommodation for individuals with disabilities unless limited exceptions apply. Furthermore, both of these laws prohibit and employer from discriminating, harassing or otherwise retaliating against employees with serious health conditions because they request medical leave or have used medical leave. This applies even if your medical leave would not otherwise be covered by the FMLA or FMLR. If you have questions about whether you are entitled to protected medical leave under any of these laws, please contact one of our attorneys to schedule a consultation.

Consult a Portland Lawyer for Assistance With a Medical Leave Dispute

Since medical leave is unpaid, it may seem strange that an employer would resent a worker taking it. Nevertheless, many employers are reluctant to grant medical leave and habitually disregard their obligations under the FMLA, FMLR, ADA, and MHRA. The dedicated Portland medical leave attorneys at the Maine Employee Rights Group, we can help you hold an employer violating these laws accountable. We serve workers in Portland, Bangor, Sanford, and elsewhere in Maine who have been denied these basic rights, and we treat each of our clients with the personalized attention that they deserve. Take the first step to protecting your rights by calling 207.874.0905 or completing our online form to schedule an initial consultation.