Imagine the fear and distress you would experience caring for your seriously ill or injured child. On top of the worry you feel day after day as you watch him suffer, your employer reprimands you for taking time to be by his side.
TheFamily and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives a worker the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in one year to care for an ill spouse or child if that employee meets the legal requirements. Yet, many companies in the U.S. focus on their own needs rather than the needs of a struggling family.
At a Big Lots Stores Inc. location in Bradenton, Fla., an employee was disciplined for taking FMLA to care for her seriously ill child. Under FMLA guidelines, she was eligible for leave as she had worked for Big Lots for the required amount of time and the Columbus, Ohio-based company has more than 50 employees in the Bradenton area. The mother was regularly written up for tardiness and absences before she was eventually fired by her employer, affecting her ability to help care for her family financially.
After receiving a claim from the terminated employee, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division investigated the case and found that Big Lots had neglected to properly provide employees with required FMLA eligibility and designation notices. In addition, its discipline of the worker was in violation of FMLA guidelines.
To settle the case, Big Lots agreed to pay the employee $8,787 in back pay and restitution. In addition, it agreed to modify its internal human resources policies in order to better screen leave requests to determine if they are eligible under FMLA.
Said the director of the Wage and Hour Division Tampa District Office in a release about the case, “This outcome demonstrates the department’s commitment to ensuring that employees are not retaliated against or prevented from exercising their FMLA rights. The FMLA became law 20 years ago, giving any employee covered by this act the ability to balance their work life with their own and their family’s health needs without risking their job.”
While a company must inform employees of their rights under FMLA and make clear their policies for leave, it’s important for workers to be knowledgeable about the law as well. Before taking leave to care for yourself or a member of your family, ensure that you fall under the eligibility guidelines:
- You have worked for your company at least 12 months
- You have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of FMLA leave, and
- You work at a company where at least 50 employees are employed at your location or within 75 miles of your location
In addition, be prepared when requesting your leave by presenting information that backs up your need for time off, especially documentation from a medical professional stating the reason for leave.
If you have been disciplined for taking eligible FMLA leave to take care of a loved one in his or her time of need, contact the FMLA lawyers at Barrett & Farahany, LLP, LLP at (404) 238-7299. We can review your FMLA case and protect your rights to provide and care for your family.