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Don't face unexpected employment issues alone

You might not expect to suffer a serious injury or expand your family this year. You might not expect that you will need to take time away from work to address these matters. Therefore, you probably won't expect that you'll have to navigate the complex legalities of ensuring your job and benefits are protected during a medical leave.

Expected or not, these are things you can be confronted with as an employee in New York, and they can be very difficult to deal with, emotionally, physically and financially. Thankfully, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 provides critical guidance and protection to employees who need to take a medical leave. Unfortunately, even though employers are expected to comply with this law, some do not.

An employer who violates the FMLA might wrongfully deny leave for an employee, give away his or her job or retaliate against the worker who took leave. Under any of these circumstances, an employee may have grounds to file a legal claim.

However, many employees may not realize they have legal recourse, as employers often have an explanation as to why they are making potentially unlawful decisions. These explanations may or may not be appropriate defenses to FMLA violations.

For instance, if you are fired for taking leave, an employer could argue that you were not eligible for FMLA coverage or that you did not take the required steps to request leave in the first place. These would generally be legitimate defenses to an employer's decision to fire you.

On the other hand, if the employer misclassifies you to make you ineligible for FMLA protection or fabricates other reasons for why you were fired, then these would not be viable defenses.

Unfortunately, without the benefit of a legal background in employment law, you might not be able to tell what is and is not a legitimate defense. And if you decide against talking to an attorney about a potential FMLA violation, you could wind up out of job and struggling financially for no reason.

You may not expect issues to arise and threaten your rights as an employee. However, if and when they do, you should take seriously your legal options to protect yourself and your career.

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