Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
SEATTLE -- St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma has paid a former employee $34,302 after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division found that the hospital violated the Family and Medical Leave Act by discriminating against an employee who was exercising her rights under the FMLA due to a qualifying serious medical condition.
"The Family and Medical Leave Act allows for critically needed workplace flexibility precisely when employees need it the most," said Donna Hart, director of the division's Seattle District Office, which investigated the case. "At the Labor Department, we are committed to educating employers and to enforcing the worker protections guaranteed by federal law."
Investigators determined that St. Joseph Medical Center had, during an internal investigation, requested copies of drug prescriptions and medication bottles from an employee who previously had provided the employer proper medical certification for two separate serious health conditions. Based on information obtained from that request, the employee was later terminated. The division found that the internal investigation was outside the scope of normal procedures for the hospital's drug policy and that the complainant had been discriminated against for asserting her rights under the FMLA.
The total computed back pay to the employee includes wages as well as benefits that the employer would have paid during the termination period, the employee's out-of-pocket expenses for medications normally covered by insurance and accrued vacation time that was forfeited upon termination.
St. Joseph Medical Center agreed to maintain future compliance with the FMLA by ensuring that employees will not be discouraged from, or discriminated or retaliated against for asserting their rights under the FMLA, for taking FMLA leave for qualifying reasons, for filing a complaint or for assisting in an investigation. As required by the FMLA, St. Joseph Medical Center also has agreed to maintain accurate leave records.
St. Joseph Medical Center is a 343-bed regional hospital that is part of the Franciscan Health System, which operates five full-service hospitals within the state of Washington as well as the Franciscan Medical Group, a regional network of primary-care and specialty-care clinics, physicians and other professional providers.
The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave 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. Information on the FMLA is available on the Wage and Hour Division's website at http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/index.htm.
For more information on the FMLA or other federal labor laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, call the division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Seattle District Office at 206-398-8039. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at (202) 693-7828 or TTY (202) 693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America’s employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit www.dol.gov/compliance.