Recent questions:


Q:  Do you handle Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) cases on a contingency fee basis?  


A:  Absolutely, we offer a variety of negotiable fee arrangements, depending upon your circumstances.  Most of the cases we handle whether FMLA, LTD, SSA or SSI or civil rights cases, are done on a contingency basis (costs only), although for those who prefer and depending upon the type of case, we offer flat rate fees or a combination of payment methods.  


Q:  I gave my employer appropriate notice that I need leave, can  I still be denied?


A:  According to the Department of Labor regulations, once your employer has the information necessary to determine if your leave is FMLA protected, your employer must inform you whether the leave will be designated as FMLA leave and, if possible, how much leave will be counted against your FMLA entitlement. Likewise, if your employer determines that your leave is not covered by FMLA, your employer must notify you of that determination.


Q:  Can I lose my job if I take FMLA?


A:  It’s illegal for an employer to interfere with, restrain, or deny an employee’s rights under FMLA. Employers cannot use taking FMLA leave as a negative factor when hiring, promoting, or disciplining workers. Taking FMLA leave cannot count under “no fault” attendance policies.  That said, an employer can terminate an employee for a non-discriminatory or non-retaliatory reason even if the employee is on FMLA leave.


Q: Can I be terminated for complaining about a violation of the FMLA?  


A:  An employer cannot take any adverse employment action based on a complaint of an FMLA violation.


Q:  What damages are available if we need to sue my employer for violations of the FMLA?


A:  Eligible employees may seek damages for wages, salary, employment benefits, actual damages, liquidated damages, interest and attorney fees and costs (including expert witness fees) in addition to any equitable remedies a judge may order.


Q:  I started working 9 months ago and recently found out I have a spinal disorder so I need to take time off work.  Am I eligible under the FMLA?


A:  Unfortunately, no.  Under the FMLA you are an eligible employee if you worked for your employer for 12 months and had at least 1,250 hours of service during the 12 month peiord just before you sought to take leave.  Moreover, your private sector emploer has to have at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your work site.  This requirement does not apply if you work for a public agency or the federal government.


Q:  My wife is about to have our first daughter!  I would love to be able to take time off to bond.  Is this possible?


A:  First, Congrats!  Secondly, yes.  Under the FMLA, as an eligible employee of a covered employer you may take up to 12 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for the birth of your child, adoption or placement of a child for foster care.


Q:  I am ill and need to take my FMLA, but this is unpaid leave, how am I to survive?


A:  You may be able to use your company's short term disabiltiy policy and sick leave to cover your absence.


Q:  I need to care for my son who was injured in the Army.  Am I covered under the FMLA?


A:  As an eligible employee you may also take up to 26 workweeks of leave during a "single 12-month period" to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness, when the employee is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin of the servicemember.  There are special rules regarding this type of leave, and we would be happy to discuss your particular situation.





Q.  I understand that LTD stands for long-term disability benefits, but what is ERISA?


A:  ERISA stands for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).  This law protects your health and disability benefits and sets regulations for those who administer your plan. This law also means that you may not seek punitive damages against the insurance company for unlawfully denying your claim and that you must follow the administrative rules in your policy before you file a lawsuit.  


Some of the large insurance companies insuring long term disability policies include the Hartford, UNUM, the Standard, CIGNA, Mutual of Omaha, Aetna and Prudential.


Q:  What are the time limits for appealing my LTD case?


A:  As a pre-requisite to filing suit an ERISA plaintiff must exhaust his or her internal administrative remedies. 


Your insurance company is required to provide 180 days from the date of initial denial to submit your first appeal. The insurance company then has 45 days to respond to your appeal and may seek an additional 45 days if it has good cause for the delay.


Q:  Ok, and then if I'm denied I get to tell my case to the jury?


A:  Sorry.  Under ERISA there are no jury trials.  The cases are handled by the judge who usually decides the case based upon the file that the insurance company has amassed and the briefs outlining the facts and law supplied by the attorneys.





Q:  What is the difference between SSD and SSI?


A:  SSD is the Social Security Disability program that is funded by your taxes when you work.  SSI is the Supplemental Security Income program that is designed as a public assistance program, both are considered safety nets to protect the elderly and disabled.


Q:  What do I need to prove to get my disability benefits?


A:  Under the Social Security Act, you must prove that you are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity.  This is a high standard which generally means that you must prove that there are no jobs in the national economy that you can perform given your limitations.


Q:   But my doctor said...


A:  Your medical provider does not have the final word when it comes to deciding whether you are disabled.  Making this determination requires an intense factual and legal analysis.


Q:  I've filled out so many forms and have been denied again and again.  Are they trying to wear me down?


A:  Any insurance program will save money by not paying claims, but I will leave it to you to assess SSA's motives.  I will say that ALJs have been more zealous about denying cases with merit.  You should continue to appeal if your case has merit.


Q:  Can you handle my case before the administrative law judge (ALJ)?


A:  Although the nature of my practice is focused on federal court appeals, I do pursue some cases at the administratve level and would be happy to provide a free consultation.


Q:  What can I do to help my claim?


A:  Be prepared.  Have a good understanding of your limitations and your work history.  Make sure you provide SSA with all the information they need to investigate your claim.  Talk to your medical providers openly about why you cannot return to your prior job or any other job due to your limitations.

Eviction Defense


Invictus Legal Services represents a limited number of tenants who may be facing evictions.  Tenants should first look to the free eviction prevention task forces set up in in King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties.  King County Housing Justice Project Information call (206) 755-3062Snohomish County Housing Justice Project Information, 425.258.9283 or Pierce County Housing Justice Project Information (253) 572-5134.


If you need additional assistance, please call. Our services may include a free consultation, office consultation, negotiation and/or litigation.  We offer retainers, flat fees, and hourly rates.