Published Date: 03/31/2014
By George Ports
A Big Lots Stores store in Bradenton, Florida recently paid a former employee $8,787.00 after a US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (DOL) investigation discovered that the company had violated the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). According to the DOL, the company violated the FMLA when it terminated the employee for absences that should have been protected as FMLA leave because the employee was taking the time off to care for a seriously ill child.
The DOL investigation revealed that Big Lots failed to properly provide the employee with the required FMLA eligibility and designation notices. The company then disciplined the employee by issuing warnings for tardiness and absences. The company eventually terminated her for violating Big Lots’ attendance policy, although the time off met the qualifying criteria for the FMLA. In the settlement, Big Lots also agreed to maintain future compliance with the FMLA by changing its internal policy to screen leave appropriately that could be eligible under the FMLA.
The FMLA provides eligible employees up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave due to their own or a family member’s serious health condition and other specified family and medical reasons, with continuation of health care coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Leave may be taken all at one time, or may be taken intermittently as the medical condition requires. An employer is prohibited from interfering with, restraining, or denying the exercise of, or the attempt to exercise, any FMLA right. Prohibited conduct includes refusing to authorize FMLA leave for an eligible employee. In addition, it is the employer’s responsibility to remind an employee of their FMLA rights it if appears that absences may be protected by the Act.