Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit seeking back wages and liquidated damages for a former employee of Staples Contract and Commercial Inc. for alleged violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act. The department’s suit was filed after an investigation by its Wage and Hour Division found that the employer failed to notify an employee of his rights under the FMLA despite being aware of the employee’s need to take full and partial days of leave to provide care for his spouse. The department is also requesting a permanent injunction against the company to prevent future FMLA violations.
“For more than 20 years, the FMLA has served as the cornerstone of the department’s effort to promote work-family balance. No worker in this country should have to lose his or her job when faced with a serious health condition or the need to care for an ill family member,” said Michelle Garvey, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Columbia District Office. “This lawsuit demonstrates the department’s commitment to ensuring workers receive all the protections to which they are entitled under the FMLA, and to preventing future violations of the law—violations that would place hard- working families and law-abiding employers at a significant disadvantage.”
Pursuant to the employer’s policy and practice, an employee’s job performance expectations may be modified when FMLA leave is requested and any pre-existing Performance Improvement Plan would be placed on hold while the employee is on FMLA leave. However, the department alleges that, as a result of the employer failing to provide notice to the employee of his rights and responsibilities under the FMLA, the employee was not afforded the opportunity to take FMLA leave to care for his spouse, his job performance expectations were not modified and he was subsequently terminated. The employee was not placed on a PIP until after informing the employer of his wife’s serious illness.
The FMLA allows an eligible employee to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave to bond with a newborn, newly adopted or newly placed child, for their own serious health condition, or to care for a seriously ill child, spouse or parent, without fear of losing their job and 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 from time to time as the medical condition requires. FMLA leave may also be taken for specified military family reasons, including leave related to certain military deployments and up to 26 workweeks of leave to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness.
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. Information on the FMLA is available on the Wage and Hour Division’s website at http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/index.htm.
The investigation was conducted by the Wage and Hour Division’s Columbia District Office. For more information about the FMLA and other federal labor laws, call the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Columbia District Office at 803-765-5981. Information is also available at www.dol.gov/whd.
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