The Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act (CFMLA) requires employers who employ 75 or more employees to provide eligible employees with 16 weeks of leave during any 24 month period for a variety of reasons, most concerning a serious health condition of a family member. The Connecticut Supreme Court has recently held that Connecticut employers are not subject to the CFMLA unless they employ at least 75 employees within the state. In this day and age of “virtual workplaces” the decision of the Court offers certainty to employers but may deprive employees working remotely of CFMLA coverage.
In Valez v. Commissioner of Labor, Nos. SC 18683-84 (Sept. 25, 2012), the plaintiff worked as a full-time office manager at a Hartford apartment complex. Her actual employer had over 1000 employees nationwide, but fewer than 75 within the State of Connecticut. The plaintiff requested and received 12 weeks of leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act but when she was unable to return to her job due to medical restrictions, she was terminated.
A complaint to the Connecticut Department of Labor alleging violation of the CFMLA was unavailing as the hearing officer determined that the employer had fewer than 75 employees in Connecticut and was therefore exempt from the statute. An appeal to the Superior Court was successful, as the Judge ruled that the CFMLA applied to employers that employ 75+ employees irrespective of their geographic location. On appeal, the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed, holding that the CFMLA applies only to employers with 75+ employees physically within the State. The Supreme Court felt that the lower court had failed to demonstrate appropriate deference to the Connecticut Labor Commissioner’s interpretation of the statutory term “employer” and his interpretation of who constitutes an “employee” for purposes of the CFMLA.
The Valez decision introduces a degree of certainty for employers with fewer than 75 employees in Connecticut. Before, some national employers were following CFMLA even though they were exempt from the federal FMLA as a result of having fewer than 50 employees within a 75 mile radius. Employees, too, can now be sure of their rights as it is settled that only employees within the state of Connecticut will count toward applicability of the CFMLA.
The employment law attorneys in the Westport, Connecticut office of Maya Murphy, P.C. have extensive experience in the negotiation and litigation of all sorts of employment-related disputes and assist clients from Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan, Darien, Norwalk, Westport and Fairfield in resolving such issues. 203-221-3100.
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