Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
FAIRFIELD, Ohio -- Under terms of a settlement agreement, DNA Diagnostics Center Inc. has agreed to pay $25,000 in lost wages and liquidated damages to an employee of the Fairfield-based company to resolve a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor for unlawfully denying leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The company subsequently fired the employee for exercising her rights under the FMLA to care for her seriously ill 12-year- old niece, for whom the employee was standing “in loco parentis,” or in the place of a parent.
“The settlement of this case is a win for working parents and guardians in America. An employee who has day-to-day responsibility for caring for a child is entitled to the protections of the FMLA, even if the employee does not have a biological or legal relationship with the child,” said George Victory, Wage and Hour district director in Columbus. “The department is committed to protecting workers’ rights under the FMLA and to educating both employers and employees about their rights and responsibilities under the law.”
Under terms of the settlement agreement, DNA Diagnostics will expunge the employee’s record of any disciplinary references. The firm has also been permanently enjoined from violating the FMLA in the future.
The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12-month period for specified family and medical reasons, with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.
In June 2010, the department issued an Administrator Interpretation clarifying the definition of son and daughter under the FMLA. This interpretation clarified that, under the FMLA, a son or daughter includes not only a biological or adopted child, but also a foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward or a child of a person standing in loco parentis. This definition ensures that an employee who assumes the role of caring for a child receives parental rights to family leave, regardless of the legal or biological relationship.
Since 1993, the FMLA has been a key component in the department’s effort to promote work-family balance, providing workplace protections for employees with a serious health condition, or for those who are caring for a covered family member with a serious health condition. The FMLA helps to ease the burden that can come with needing time away from work when faced with such an illness. For more information about the FMLA and other federal wage laws, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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