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Recent medical leave ruling could affect Colorado employees

Many Aurora residents have likely experienced a situation in which it becomes necessary to take time off from work to care for a sick loved one or even for oneself. For most people, their employers allow them the flexibility to take this time off without having to worry about employment discrimination. After all, federal law protects employees in this regard.

However, state employees in Colorado should be aware that a recent court ruling has negatively impacted their options when taking extended leave.

The United States Supreme Court recently ruled that a state employee is not allowed to sue the state he or she works for if the employee's request for unpaid sick leave is denied. Residents throughout Colorado should take note that this ruling, which invalidates part of the Family Medical Leave Act, applies only to state employees -- not private company employees.

The FMLA was passed in 1993 to protect employees from employment discrimination if the employees need to take time away from their jobs to address individual or family medical issues. One of the more significant parts of the legislation was to allow for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for an individual to recover from a personal illness or childbirth.

In the recent Supreme Court case, the individual in question had seen his sick leave request denied, and he subsequently sued his state employer for $1.1 million in damages. The Supreme Court ruled that he was not allowed to bring the suit for damages against the state.

The ruling changes the landscape for some employment discrimination cases, and since employment law is already complex, fluency in federal and state guidelines is crucial when seeking recourse for unfair employment practices.

Source: Lost Angeles Times, "Supreme Court voids part of medical leave act," David G. Savage, March 20, 2012.

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