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More time to file FMLA complaints if employer violated willfully

The term "statute of limitations" is often used as a joke about legal jargon, but in the civil lawsuit world, it is no joke. The statute of limitations refers to the amount of time that an injured party has to file a complaint against the person or entity responsible for their injury. It is an important number to know and is different for every type of claim in each state. This is one major reason why it is so crucial to seek legal advice as soon as possible after an incident that may give rise to a lawsuit.

However, extenuating circumstances can sometimes occur, and in those cases in may take someone who has been wronged a long time to file a lawsuit. In those cases, attorneys must look out for the approaching deadline and make sure their client does not lose the opportunity to seek relief.

One Pennsylvania man recently experienced this first-hand, after severe diabetes led to several surgeries and amputations. The man originally applied for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act when he first learned that he would need surgery on his feet and was successful. The FMLA guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year, and the man used up almost all of that before his doctor cleared him to return to work.

Unfortunately his employer did not have an effective system in place to help the man return to work, and after a wild goose chase between human resources and the legal department, the man exceeded his FMLA allotment for the year before his employer allowed him to return. While he was waiting to see a doctor that was authorized by his employer to clear him to work, his employer sent him a letter saying that he had been fired for not returning.

After that, the man faced more medical problems and underwent further surgeries. He was unable to pursue his claim against his past employer until more than two years later. Luckily, the courts allowed his lawsuit to move forward, extending the statute of limitations because his employer willfully violated the FMLA.

Source: Business Management Daily, "Train supervisors on proper handling of FMLA return-to-work certifications," Oct. 29, 2012.

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