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FMLA Interference Versus FMLA Retaliation Claims

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Covered employers nationwide are required to provide employees with certain benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA requires covered employers to allow employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified medical conditions or to take care of qualifying family members, for birth or adoption of a child, and other qualifying events. Employers who refuse to grant covered FMLA leave or who retaliate against employees for exercising their rights under FMLA may be liable for damages. FMLA interference and FMLA retaliation are two different types of claims for aggrieved workers, depending on the conduct of the employer.

What is FMLA Interference?

FMLA interference occurs when an employer illegally prevents an employee from exercising their rights under the FMLA. To state a claim of FMLA interference, an employee must allege the following:

  • The employer is covered by FMLA, and the employee is eligible for FMLA leave
  • The employee was entitled to take FMLA leave
  • The employee gave notice of the intention to take FMLA leave
  • The employer took some adverse action which interfered with the employee’s right and ability to take FMLA leave
  • The employer’s action was related to the exercise or attempted exercise of the employee’s FMLA rights

What is FMLA Retaliation?

Retaliation is similar to interference but different in terms of timing. Retaliation occurs when an employee engages in a protected right, and their employer retaliates against them in response. To state a claim for retaliation, an eligible employee who works for a covered employer must allege:

  • The employee engaged in an activity protected by the FMLA
  • The employer undertook an action that a reasonable employee would have found adverse
  • The adverse action was taken in response to the employee’s protected activity

The Difference Between Interference and Retaliation

Interference and retaliation both concern an employer taking inappropriate action in response to an employee exercising rights under the FMLA. The difference primarily concerns the timing of the employer’s actions. If an employee takes the full FMLA leave as desired but is then fired, demoted, denied a promotion, or otherwise treated adversely after the fact, a retaliation claim is appropriate.
On the other hand, if an employee requests FMLA leave and an employer does something to prevent the worker from taking leave–threatens to fire an employee or deny benefits, changes the employee’s position, delays a decision to prevent the employee from taking the desired leave, etc.–then the employee will have a claim of interference. An interference claim requires that the employee was actually prevented from taking the full, protected leave, while a retaliation can be brought even if the employee managed to take the full leave.
If your FMLA rights have been unreasonably denied in a Texas workplace, you can rely on the seasoned and effective employment attorneys at Tremain Artaza PLLC for advice and representation. Our attorneys are committed to justice and protecting the families of workers across Texas. Submit your case for our review for free online or schedule a low-cost telephone consultation with us.

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