Nashville Bar Association
Tennessee Bar Association
Vanderbilt Law School

Leave of Absence Violations

Employers cannot retaliate against you for asserting your rights to protected leave. This includes requests made under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Tennessee Maternity Leave Act (TMLA), and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).


Under the FMLA, an employee may take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, protected leave in a given 12-month period for any of the following reasons:

  • A serious health condition makes you unable to perform the functions of your job
  • Birth of a child and to bond with the newborn child within one year of birth
  • To care for and to bond with an adopted child within one year of placement
  • To care for your spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition
  • Military leave exigencies such as changing child care arrangements, attending military ceremonies and events, spending time with a military member on Rest and Recuperation leave during deployment, etc.

Covered employers: The FMLA covers private employers with 50 or more employees, including joint employers. Public employers are covered regardless of the number of employees.

Covered employees: For you to be covered by the FMLA, your employer must employ at least 50 employees at your worksite or at multiple locations located within 75 miles of your worksite. Also, you must have worked for your employer for 12 months (non-continuous) and worked at least 1,250 hours (about 24 hours per week, on average) within the preceding 12 months to be eligible for FMLA leave.

Claims under the FMLA include:

  • Interference – Employer tries to stop or discourage you from taking or trying to take FMLA leave
  • Retaliation – Employer fires or discriminates against you for exercising your FMLA rights

Importantly, you must follow your employer’s procedure for requesting FMLA leave, including if your employer uses a third-party (outside) FMLA administrator.


USERRA provides robust protections for our nation’s servicemembers who answer the call to serve. Under USERRA, civilian job rights and benefits for are protected under the “escalator principle,” which requires military members to be reemployed in the job they would have attained had they not been called to serve. In other words, if you would have been promoted but for your service, you are entitled to be reinstated to the promoted position upon your return. This includes the same seniority, status, and pay as well as other rights and benefits. In addition, an employer cannot retaliate against a servicemember for asserting his or her rights under USERRA.

Likewise, Tennessee law protects members of the Tennessee National Guard who are called to serve, including for drill weekends, annual training, and mobilization by the Governor during a state emergency.


The Tennessee Maternity Leave Act provides up to 16 weeks of unpaid parental leave, including for fostering, adopting, or birth of a child. To be eligible, your employer must have at least 100 employees at your location and you must give three months’ notice unless the absence is due to an emergency.

If you have been discriminated or retaliated against after requesting or taking protected leave, contact a Nashville employment lawyer immediately at 615-823-1737 or for a free and confidential legal consultation.

Client Reviews
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