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Workers filing family-leave lawsuits

The balance between work and family is one of the biggest considerations for modern American employees. For many, the amount of paternity leave, maternity leave and other family support benefits are critical when choosing an employer. At minimum, people want to get the benefits guaranteed to them under the Family and Medical Leave Act, known as FMLA. If they don't, they may file lawsuits, which is happening more often.

The FMLA guarantees set periods of leave and bars employers from retaliating against workers who take it. The amount of leave can be up to 12 weeks unpaid each year. Reasons can be based on medical or family needs.

However, many workers clearly feel that they are not getting the amount of leave that they deserve. This is evidenced by the increase of lawsuits against employers over FMLA leave claims. In 2012, the number of those lawsuits was 291. In 2013, it was 877.

Employees filing such suits have to provide proof that has a lower threshold than that needed by many other employment laws. For example, in a bias case, the employee would need to prove that the employer intended to discriminate. However, with an FMLA case, they only need to prove that the employer deterred or prevented a leave that was a legal right under the law.

If employees does prove this, they are not likely to receive punitive damages. However, they may receive compensatory damages including up to double any wages lost and cost of care for the family members involved. Because if this, along with the loser paying the winner's legal fees, these lawsuits will probably continue to become more common. This is a good reason for employees to become familiar with their rights under FMLA with the help of an attorney.

Source:  The Wall Street Jounal, "More Workers File Family-Leave Lawsuits" Joe Palazzolo, Aug. 08, 2014

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