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The FMLA and workplace discrimination

If you had to make a choice between your job and your family, which one would you choose? For almost everyone, the answer is clear. That's why the federal Family and Medical Leave Act is in place.

This set of regulations protects people with medical emergencies or family necessities. If you have to care for a loved one, if you became disabled or if you were having a baby, the FMLA could protect your long-term job — even during extended absences without pay. Here are a few ways to determine whether you are covered, and also how to spot potential workplace discrimination related to this subject.

Company policy

Many large companies provide specific benefits for emergencies and for maternity. Therefore, your first step would likely be to check your company's policies. You may also have specific terms in your employment contract. These documents are important. They represent a legal agreement between you and the people you work for, and human resources departments follow strict guidelines to comply with them.

Qualifications

If you work for a small company — or if you find that your employer does not offer any type of long-term absence options — you may want to check if you qualify for the FMLA. The requirements have mostly to do with the amount of time you have worked for your employer.

If you put in the equivalent of about a 25-hour work week consistently over the past year, you probably have enough qualifying hours to take advantage of the federal program. Do not lose hope if you think you have worked a little bit less than the minimum. There is the possibility that your employer was misclassifying certain types of breaks or commutes that would otherwise put you over the limit. If it turned out that your company knowingly prevented you from getting the hours you needed because of your gender or disability status, you could have multiple types of claims.

Legal protection

Some employers see this set of laws as an inconvenience. As you can probably imagine, there is any number of illegal or borderline actions managers and business owners might take to avoid giving time off. However, you could have a chance to stand up for yourself by pursuing legal action. Many of these actions may constitute a violation of your civil rights in addition to breaking the federal leave regulations.

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