Please note: As of January 20, 2021, information in some news releases may be out of date or not reflect current policies.
US Labor Department investigation finds over 450 Family and Medical Leave Act violations at St. Mary's Health Care System Inc. in Athens, Georgia
Employer name: St. Mary's Health Care System Inc.
Investigation site: 1230 Baxter St., Athens, Georgia 30606
Investigation findings: Investigators from the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division found that St. Mary's Health Care System had over 460 violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act in a two year period ending June of 2015. The FMLA provides a critical safety net for working families allowing them to take time off to care for their families or for their own serious health condition without risking their jobs. Violations found at St. Mary's include: failure to provide employees requesting FMLA leave a timely notice of their eligibility for leave; failure to notify employees of their rights and responsibilities under FMLA; failure to notify employees on a timely basis whether or not their leave was designated as FMLA; and failure to keep accurate records as required under the act. These notification and designation violations created situations where employees were unlawfully denied FMLA protected leave, or leave taken was not properly designated as FMLA, which can impact employee' personnel records and can put workers at risk for suspension, termination of employment, and other adverse employment actions.
Resolution: St. Mary's Health Care System, Inc. has signed an Enhanced Compliance Agreement with the division, agreeing to take proactive measures to ensure future compliance with the FMLA. The employer agreed to: set up an FMLA hotline so that employees will have access to one direct number to call when requesting FMLA leave; provide training, at least annually, to all frontline supervisors and other employees who may receive FMLA calls from workers on their responsibilities and rights under the FMLA; set up an ongoing monitoring program to review the employer's compliance with FMLA which includes a thorough review of a sampling of FMLA requests every six months; and provide annual training for all of their employees regarding their FMLA rights.
Quote: "More and more families are finding it harder to balance the demands of work with the responsibilities of caring for children, elderly parents, wounded warriors, family members with disabilities and other loved ones," said Wayne Kotowski, Southeast regional administrator for the division. "For more than 20 years, the Family and Medical Leave Act has been a vital safeguard for working families. It ensures that no one should have to choose between the jobs they need and the families they love. When an employer routinely disregards the FMLA rights of its workers, whole families can be harmed. We will continue to use all enforcement tools at our disposal to uphold FMLA protections for workers and make sure that all employers operate in compliance with the law."
Information: An employer is prohibited from interfering with, restraining or denying the exercise of, or the attempt to exercise, any FMLA right. Prohibited conduct includes failing to notify an employee of his or her rights under the FMLA when aware that the employee is taking FMLA-qualifying leave. Information on the FMLA is available on the Wage and Hour Division's website at http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/index.htm.