FAMILY & MEDICAL LEAVE ACT/WASHINGTON FAMILY LEAVE ACT
Under both the federal Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Washington State Family Leave Act (WFLA), employers covered under the law may not to hire or to discharge, fine, suspend, expel or discriminate against you because you exercise your right to family care and medical leave. The Act creates a private right of action to seek both money damages and equitable relief.
The FMLA allows eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Notably, an employee can qualify for FMLA leave to care for the son or daughter of a same-sex partner.
If you are an eligible employee, you may be entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a serious medical condition, to care for a loved one,or at the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child. In order to establish an FMLA violation, you must demonstrate that your employer received sufficient notice of your intent to take FMLA leave. Notably, the leave does not need to be taken all at once but can be taken intermittently.
Upon providing your employer a request for FMLA leave, your employer must first issue a notice of eligibility informing you of you general eligibility for leave. Second, the employer must issue a designation notice to determine whether you are an eligible employee and whether the request for leave will be designated as FMLA leave.
Notably, under Washington's family leave law as of 2015, those eligible for parental leave may be eligible for five weeks of partial pay when necessary to take time off to care for the newborn baby or newly adopted child. Employees must have worked at least 680 hours diruing the prior year or the year that ended three months before the leave starts. Benefits for those who work full time--35 hours--are $250 per week; those who have worked fewer hours would be eligible for a prorated amount.
According to Department of Labor regulations, if your spouse, parent, son or daughter is a military member who is deployed or has been notified of an impending deployment to a foreign country, and you work for a covered employer and are an eligible employee, you may be entitled for FMLA qualifying exigency leave. This type of emergency leave allows you to take up to a total of 12 workweeks of FMLA leave for qualifying exigencies, such as making different day care arrangements for the military member’s children or attending official military ceremonies as your family member prepares to deploy.
MILITARY CAREGIVER LEAVE
Likewise, the DOL regulations provide that when you must care for an injured or seriously ill servicemember or veteran, the FMLA may be able to help you ease the burden of worrying about your job, alleviating a bit of your stress. If you are the spouse, parent, son, daughter, or next-of-kin of a covered servicemember, you work for a covered employer, and are an eligible employee, you may be entitled to military caregiver leave. This type of leave allows military caregivers to take up to a total of 26 workweeks of unpaid leave during a single 12-month period to take care of your military relative if he or she has a qualifying serious injury or illness.
LONG-TERM DISABILITY BENEFITS (LTD) or (ERISA)
Fighting for long term disability benefits under your group disability plan can be overwhelming. ERISA (the Employee Retirement Income Security Act) is a federal law that governs almost all employer-provided benefit and pension plans versus private individual policies. Generally--leaving aside public employees--any insurance policy--health, disabiltiy, life--that is issued as a benefit of the worker's employment is covered by ERISA. The ERISA rules provide a method for resolving long term disability claims (LTD).
LTD benefits can be a crucial lifesaver for those individuals coping with a disabling injury and loss of income. We work diligently as a team with you and your physicians to guide you through the process, and we strive to win your case for benefits as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The definition o f disability is not set in stone. It may mean being unable to work at your own occupation, or it may mean an inability to work at any occupation. Your first step should be to obtain a copy of your disability isurance policy.
It may be intimidating to take on your insurance company, but once we're on board, you can stop worrying. We won't let the insurance company bully you or your doctors into making a decision based on the insurance companies' interests.
PRIVATE DISABILITY CLAIMS
If an insurance company such as the Hartford, Unum or Aetna unlawfully fails to honor its private disability policy with you, you may have a claim for breach of contract or bad faith. A breach of contract claim could provide you with monetary damages under the policy as well as consequential and incidental damages. Under Washington's Insurance Fair Conduct Act, certain conduct by your insurance company could entitle you to three times the amount of monetary damages at issue plus your attorney fees and costs.
SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY (SSD) FEDERAL COURT APPEALS
There are five stages of appeal in a social security disability SSD or SSI case.
After you are denied initially you may seek:
1) Reconsideration: At reconsideration, your claim will be reviewed again by another person associated with the Social Security Administration (SSA). At the recon level, you can submit new evidence offering further proof of your disability.
2) The ALJ Hearing: This is where the administrative law judge presides over your case and you are permitted to testify, subpoena witness and submit additional medical and vocational evidence. This is a crucial stage. The ALJ will then make a decision based on the information in your case. Most cases are resolved at this level, and most ALJs seek to deny your claim if possible. We take a select number of cases at this stage. If we decide not to take your case, we will refer you to another attorney.
3) Social Security Appeals Council "AC": If your claim is denied by the ALJ, your next step is to ask the Social Security's Appeals Council to review your case. The AC may reverse the findings of the ALJ, affirm the lower decision or remand the case back to the ALJ for further findings. More than likely, after 9-18 months, the AC will rubber-stamp the ALJ's decision.
4) USDC Federal district court: This is typically where our office become involved and will argue your case against SSA in federal court. This is usually, but not always, the final stage of appeal. The lawsuit is typically litigated by briefs written by your attorney.
5) Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals: this is the last stage of appeal for all but a few social security cases. If you are at this level, you might be making new law.
SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME (SSI) FEDERAL COURT APPEALS
Our office takes a select number of social security disability and SSI cases that are ready for an administrative hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). We appeal cases that have already been denied by an ALJ to the Appeals Council or federal court. Do not take the ALJ's word that your case has no merit, especially if you went to your hearing without an attorney. SSA judges have been proven wrong time and time again. Consult us for free review of your decision.
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