Rachel Bethel
Austin/Houston Employment Trial Lawyer Rachel Bethel

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is vital in protecting employees who need time off for medical or family-related reasons. Unfortunately, despite the safeguards provided by the FMLA, employees remain exposed to employers’ unlawful retaliation for taking FMLA leave. Below, we’ll explore how to recognize potential signs of FMLA retaliation and discuss strategies for addressing such situations.

Signs of Potential FMLA Retaliation and Harassment:

1.     Adverse Employment Actions:

Watch out for sudden changes in your role shortly after returning from FMLA leave. These might include actions such as a demotion, suspension, poor evaluations, reduction in hours, pay, or scope of work, being assigned to perform less desirable duties, or even termination. 

2.     Unjustified Discipline:

Be wary of unwarranted disciplinary actions and sudden over-scrutiny. If you notice a sudden increase in hostility and subsequent write-ups or penalties, this could be a sign of FMLA retaliation. 

3.     Denial of Benefits or Opportunities:

Retaliation can manifest in the denial of benefits or opportunities that you would have otherwise been entitled to. This may include promotions, raises, educational benefits, or training opportunities that seem to be suddenly or inexplicably withheld. Where an employer demands that you 

4.     Exclusion & Deterrence:

Pay attention to changes in communication. If you were once included in important meetings or decision-making processes and are suddenly excluded, it might be a sign of retaliation. Being required to provide your employer with unreasonable notice in advance of taking leave, being asked to delay your leave, or being required to work while on leave can be indicia of harassment and retaliation.

What to Do if You Suspect FMLA Retaliation:

If you suspect FMLA retaliation or harassment, schedule a meeting with one of our Austin employment lawyers. We can provide guidance on your rights and possible avenues for relief.

Know Your Rights:

Familiarize yourself with FMLA regulations and your rights as an employee. Being informed empowers you to advocate for yourself and can serve as a deterrent against potential retaliation.

Know that covered FMLA leave includes:

Serious Health Conditions:

Employees can take FMLA leave for their own serious health condition. This includes illnesses, injuries, or impairments that may require inpatient care or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider.

Birth and Care of a Newborn:

FMLA allows eligible employees to take leave for the birth of a child and to bond with the newborn within one year of birth.

Adoption or Foster Care Placement:

Employees can take FMLA leave for the placement of a child through adoption or foster care. This includes time to bond with the newly placed child within one year of placement.

Care for a Spouse, Child, or Parent with a Serious Health Condition:

Eligible employees can take FMLA leave to care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition. This includes providing care, support, or assistance during the family member’s medical treatment or recovery.

Qualifying Exigency Leave:

FMLA provides for leave for qualifying exigencies arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, child, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty” or has been notified of an impending call to “covered active duty” in the Armed Forces.

Military Caregiver Leave:

Eligible employees can take FMLA leave to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness. This includes the spouse, child, parent, or next of kin of a covered service member.

FMLA retaliation and harassment are serious workplace issues that can have profound consequences on your professional life. By being aware of the signs, understanding your rights, and taking proactive steps to get help, you will be better equipped to protect yourself from unlawful retaliation and harassment. 

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What do you like most about being an employment lawyer?

The best part of being an employment lawyer is being there for people who are facing some of the worst times in their lives. I enjoy counseling my clients and reminding them that…

What do you like most about being an employment lawyer?

The best part of being an employment lawyer is being there for people who are facing some of the worst times in their lives. I enjoy counseling my clients and reminding them that they are not alone. The fact that I then get to use my legal training to help improve their situation is an immensely rewarding feeling.


What kind of clients do you like best?

Clients who are professional and focused on succeeding in their case tend to be the easiest to work with. It is especially helpful when clients are willing to prepare and get all their relevant documents and information in order.

What labor and employment issues do you think are currently trending?

It is encouraging to see that Texas passed the CROWN Act in 2023; it just went into effect in September. Less than half of the country has passed a similar bill, so this is a legal frontier in its nascent stages.

Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice?

RBG.

What is your favorite legal movie?

On the Basis of Sex

Besides Rob Wiley, P.C., what is the most interesting job that you have had?

I had a brief stint as a preschool teacher, and it was the best job ever. My students were the cutest stress relievers I could have ever asked for.


What is your favorite food?

Barbecue.


What’s the best part of living in Dallas, TX?

Being close to my family again after 11 years away in DC. Dallas has changed so much since I was growing up. It is way more diverse now and has a very solid food scene.

What skills do you value as an employment attorney?

I think the three main skills you need to be a good employment attorney are reading (tons of cases, briefs, motions, etc.), writing (complaints, oppositions, motions, etc.), and having the emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills to interact with clients, witnesses, mediators, judges, deponents, court clerks, opposing counsel, etc. The role requires a lot of interacting with people in various roles with varying goals. An employment attorney needs to know how to approach every conversation appropriately.


Have you ever learned something from one of your clients?

Every single day. In listening to my clients, I obtain additional data points on how Defendants or Respondents operate in different corporate or governmental settings. Every case is different. Each charge, claim, or lawsuit begins with a story, and that story belongs to the client. Clients know all the contours of their workplace and the relevant personalities far better than their lawyer ever will. If clients are empowered to know what is going on in their case from the start, they can offer a wealth of knowledge, insight, and perspective to help their lawyer succeed. Clients may not know all the legalese and jargon involved, but once they are steered in the right direction, they know where to look or who to talk with to get the most critical information. The more a lawyer listens to the client, the more the lawyer learns each time.