Federal law protects jobs of certain workers who take medical leave

Created: 04/30/2014 5:35 PM
By: Kai Porter, KOB Eyewitness News 4

On Wednesday we told you about an Albuquerque woman who claims she was fired for missing work to care for her husband in the hospital. Now, we’re learning more about what rights you have if you’re ever in a similar situation.

“A lot of people are not aware,” said local attorney Pia Gallegos, who specializes in employment law. “That's why I get so many phone calls.”

She said not all workers know they may qualify for protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

In some cases it can guarantee workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave and guarantee their job will be waiting for them when they return.

“It's very important because it means if you're sick or ill, or your husband or children are sick or ill, it means you aren't going to lose your job because you take care of yourself or you take care of them,” said Gallegos.

On Tuesday, Raquel Ibarra told KOB she was unfairly fired from her job as a janitor last month. She missed a day of work to care for her husband who was hurt in a wreck. But to qualify for protection under the FMLA you must work more than 1,250 hours in the prior 12 month period. Raquel had only been employed for about a month. But for workers who do qualify, there are ways to make sure you’re protected if you think your rights were violated.

“They should contact an attorney and their attorney will contact their employer and make sure they do get their job back or an equivalent position,” according to Gallegos.

As for Raquel, the good news is she’s already received a job offer from another company.

For more information on the FMLA, visit

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