Can an Employer Deny FMLA Leave? Exploring Your Rights

Navigating the complexities of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can be a daunting task for both employees and employers. With various eligibility requirements, rights, and protections to consider, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of what FMLA...

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Navigating the complexities of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can be a daunting task for both employees and employers. With various eligibility requirements, rights, and protections to consider, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of what FMLA entails and how it affects your work and personal life. This blog post will provide you with a comprehensive guide on FMLA, debunk common misconceptions, and answer frequently asked questions, including “Can an employer deny FMLA leave?”

Key Takeaways

  • Understand your rights and eligibility for FMLA leave.
  • Know what an employer can deny you, how to navigate medical certification, concurrent policies & more.
  • Get legal help if needed to protect your rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Understanding FMLA Eligibility

Specific criteria must be met to qualify for FMLA leave. To be considered an eligible employee, you need to have been employed with a covered employer for at least 12 months within the last 7 years and have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the 12 months before the leave. Furthermore, the reason for requesting FMLA leave must be due to a qualifying event, such as a serious health condition, the birth of a child, or the care for a family member with a serious illness.

FMLA leave can be used in various situations, including:

  • Caring for a newborn or newly adopted child
  • Caring for a seriously ill family member (including the employee’s spouse)
  • Recovering from a serious health condition

Understanding your eligibility and the qualifying reasons for taking FMLA leave can help you make informed decisions about your work and personal life.

Reasons an Employer Might Deny FMLA Leave

There are instances where employers might deny FMLA leave. One reason for denial could be that the employee does not meet the eligibility requirements, such as not having worked the required 1,250 hours in the 12 months before the leave or not having been employed with the company for at least 12 months.

Another reason might be that the employee unable to continue working has already exhausted their allotted FMLA leave for the year.

Providing sufficient medical certification when requesting FMLA leave due to a serious health condition, such as a serious injury or illness, is of utmost importance. If an employee does not provide adequate medical certification, their leave may not be protected. To ensure your rights are upheld, be thorough in meeting eligibility requirements and providing necessary documentation.

Navigating Medical Certification and Recertification

Employers have the right to request medical certification and recertification for FMLA leave related to serious health conditions. This process is vital for determining the necessity of leave and safeguarding the employee’s rights. Employers should generally request medical certification when an employee informs them of the need for leave or within five business days. The employer should ask for medical proof in the case of an unplanned leave. This request should be sent within five days of the leave beginning..

If an employer finds the medical certification to be incomplete or unconvincing, they can ask for more information in writing, giving the employee seven days to reply. They can also request follow-up medical certifications, but they would have to cover the cost.

Ensure a smooth FMLA leave process under the Medical Leave Act by diligently obtaining accurate and current medical certification from your health care provider.

Your Rights and Protections Under FMLA

FMLA provides various rights and protections for eligible employees, including job protected leave. These rights ensure that upon returning from FMLA leave, employees should be reinstated to the same job or a similar one with equivalent pay and benefits. Additionally, FMLA guarantees that employees’ group health benefits are maintained during their leave.

Employers have certain obligations under FMLA, such as not interfering with or retaliating against employees or an employee’s spouse exercising their FMLA rights. Prohibited actions include denying valid FMLA leave requests or punishing employees for filing complaints or assisting the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) in investigations.

A thorough understanding of your rights and protections under FMLA can guide you through the process and help uphold your rights.

Do I Have to Tell my Employer Why I Need FMLA and Medical Leave?

Concurrent and Paid Leave Policies

FMLA leave is separate from other paid leave policies an employee may have access to, such as vacation or sick leave. However, employers may require or allow employees to use paid leave concurrently with FMLA leave, effectively combining the two types of leave. Keep in mind, FMLA does not mandate employers to compensate employees for the leave taken.

Understanding the relationship between FMLA leave and other paid leave policies can help you make informed decisions about how to best use your leave options. Be sure to communicate with your employer about their specific policies and requirements regarding concurrent leave to ensure you fully understand your options.

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Returning to Work After FMLA Leave

After taking FMLA leave under the medical leave act, employees must provide a medical release from their healthcare provider, indicating their ability to return to work and any work restrictions that may apply. Upon returning, employees are entitled to be reinstated to the same job or an equivalent job with the same pay and benefits.

The return-to-work process post FMLA leave can be complex, yet a clear understanding of your rights and employer obligations can facilitate a seamless transition. Communicate with your employer about any necessary accommodations or adjustments needed to accommodate your return to work.

Reporting FMLA Violations and Seeking Legal Help

If you believe your employer has violated your FMLA rights, you have options for recourse. You can report the violation to the Department of Labor or seek legal assistance. The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) can provide guidance and resources for filing complaints and pursuing legal action.

Bear in mind, any retaliation against employees who exercise their FMLA rights or report violations is strictly prohibited by employers. Knowing your legal avenues and taking necessary action can assist in protecting and upholding your rights.

Military Provisions and Caregiver Leave

FMLA includes specific provisions for military families and caregivers. Eligible employees can take FMLA leave for a variety of reasons related to certain military deployments of their family members. For example, covered active duty or deployment are two such reasons. Additionally, military caregiver leave is available for eligible employees caring for a seriously injured or ill service member.

A clear comprehension of the military provisions under FMLA, including covered active duty status, can guide service members and their families in balancing work and personal life amid the distinct challenges of military service. Be sure to familiarize yourself with your rights and eligibility for military caregiver leave and other deployment-related provisions under FMLA.

Mental Health and FMLA

FMLA also covers employees with chronic mental health conditions and their family members. This means that if you or a family member have a serious chronic mental health condition, you may be eligible to take FMLA leave for treatment and care. This leave can be used intermittently or on a reduced schedule when medically necessary.

Understanding the scope of FMLA as it relates to mental health can help employees and their families access the support and care they need while managing their work responsibilities. Be sure to communicate with your healthcare provider and employer about your needs and eligibility for FMLA leave related to mental health.

Real-Life Example of an FMLA Leave Request Denied by Employer

Amy had been employed at a marketing firm for over a year when her anxiety and depression began worsening. She started having panic attacks frequently and was often unable to focus at work. Amy’s doctor recommended taking a month-long leave to undergo intensive therapy and adjust her medications. She applied for FMLA leave, submitting all the required paperwork from her physician.

However, Amy’s supervisor denied her request, claiming they were too understaffed for her to take a month off. Amy was shocked and explained she had a serious health condition that qualified under the FMLA. But the supervisor wouldn’t budge. Amy desperately contacted HR, only to be told her condition “didn’t seem serious enough” to warrant protected leave.

Distraught, Amy hired an employment attorney. The lawyer confirmed the firm had violated Amy’s FMLA rights by denying her approved medical leave for a qualified chronic condition. 

After the legal violation was exposed, the company quickly reversed its decision.

Amy finally got the time off she desperately needed. However, she was outraged that her employer had tried to interfere with her medical care and FMLA rights. She filed a complaint to stand up against their illegal actions.

Common FMLA Misconceptions

There are several misconceptions about FMLA that can create confusion and misunderstandings. For instance, some people believe that FMLA is paid leave or that it can be used for any reason. However, it’s important to understand that FMLA is unpaid leave and can only be used for specific qualifying events, such as serious health conditions or the care of a family member with a serious illness.

Dispelling these common misconceptions and grasping the real purpose and scope of FMLA allows employees to make more informed decisions about their leave options and protect their rights.


We hope this comprehensive guide on FMLA has provided you with valuable insights and a clearer understanding of your rights and obligations under this important law. By staying informed and proactive, you can successfully navigate the complexities of FMLA leave and maintain a balanced work and personal life. Remember, knowledge is power, and understanding your FMLA rights is the first step toward ensuring they are protected and respected.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can my employer deny giving me FMLA paperwork?

Your employer cannot deny you FMLA paperwork if you qualify. They are obligated to offer the papers, provide you with the ability to meet the requirements of the program, and adhere to government standards.

Can you be fired if FMLA is denied?

You cannot be fired for exercising your rights under the FMLA, even if your request is denied. Retaliation is not allowed when an employee takes or requests FMLA leave, or upon returning from FMLA medical leave.

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What happens if a leave of absence is denied?

If a leave of absence is denied, the first step is to ask the employer why. If they refuse to provide a reason, contact an attorney for assistance.

Can my boss not approve my leave?

Yes, your boss can choose not to approve your leave, depending on the legitimate business reasons you provide and that you deny vacation requests consistently.

What are the rules around FMLA?

The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for employees who have worked at least 12 months and 1,250 hours, and work at a location with 50 or more employees within 75 miles. This leave can be used to care for a newborn, adopted or foster child, or a family member, or to attend to the employee’s own serious medical health condition.

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