September, 2015

On the occasion of accepting a new case involving the Family and Medical Leave Act, (“FMLA”), I thought it would be informative to review this important piece of legislation. The last time I litigated and settled an FMLA case before the Connecticut Department of Labor, I was told it was the largest settlement ever recorded at that agency under this act.

Actually, there are two FMLA acts: the federal FMLA, 29 U.S.C. Section 2601, and a state FMLA, Conn. Gen. Stat. Section 31-51kk-qq. While there are important differences between the two acts, they are part of a group of employment claims which have been called Family Responsibilities Discrimination (“FRD”). Such claims are the subject of recent enforcement by the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (“EEOC”). FMLA is among the most common of these claims, which occur when employers take negative job actions against employees because of their family-care and self- medical responsibilities.

Federal FMLA employer eligibility requires 50 employees within a 75-mile radius. Connecticut FMLA, (“CFMLA”), applies to private employers of 75 or more employees within Connecticut. Federal FMLA covers those employees who have worked at least 1250 hours within the last 12 months. CFMLA only requires 1000 hours in the 12 months preceding the requested leave of absence.

Unpaid leave up to 12 weeks in any 12-month perioed may be taken under the federal act. Under CFMLA, 16 weeks of unpaid leave may be taken in any 24-month period.

In many ways, employee protections are greater under our state act. For example, interference claims, alleging , for example, a denial of reinstatement, unlike discrimination claims under the FMLA, need not prove an employer’s intent, that the employer acted with any particular intent. A mere showing that the employee was entitled to the benefit and the employer refused to provide it is enough to establish liability. Therefore, it is what is called a “strict liability” standard—no intent need be proved. Cendant Corporation v. Commissioner of Labor, 276 Conn. 16, 23 (2005).

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