US Department of Labor recovers $60K for restaurant employee denied protected medical leave, terminated for exercising rights
BRADENTON BEACH, FL – A federal investigation and litigation by the U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $60,065 in back wages and liquidated damages for a former employee of a Bradenton Beach restaurant that forced them back to work the same day of their hospital discharge — despite doctor’s orders not to do so for three days — and terminated their employment less than a week later.
Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found The Wicked Taco Inc. – operating as Wicked Cantina – did not notify the worker of their rights to, and their ability to use protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act because of their medical situation.
Division investigators learned that after a brief hospitalization, the hospital released the worker on March 1, 2020, with instructions not to resume work duties until March 4, 2020. The day of their release, the employee went to Wicked Cantina to give a copy of the doctor’s orders to the restaurant’s general manager. The employee was instructed to work regardless of the doctor’s orders. The employer never brought up that the worker could use FMLA-protected leave and did not provide notification of the employee’s FMLA rights or provide the required forms or notifications.
On March 6, 2020, the restaurant’s general manager terminated the employee for alleged excessive tardiness and allegedly spreading rumors among co-workers about the management.
The department obtained a consent judgment on March 3, 2023, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Tampa ordering payment of the back wages and damages by Wicked Taco and forbidding the employer from any future FMLA violations.
“When dealing with a health concern, no worker should be forced to fear losing their job while facing one of life’s difficult challenges,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Nicolas Ratmiroff in Tampa, Florida. “We will use all tools at our disposal to ensure workers receive their full protections under the law. The costly consequences for Wicked Cantina’s illegal actions are clear reminders for other employers that retaliating against workers for invoking their protected rights is no way to do business.”
In fiscal year 2022, the Wage and Hour Division investigated 780 FMLA complaints and recovered more than $870,000 in back wages for violations ranked most significant.
Learn more about the FMLA and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, including an FMLA Compliance Assistance Toolkit, or contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).
Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions, regardless of where they are from, and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages. Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.
Read more about how the Wage and Hour Division answered the call to protect another Florida worker’s FMLA rights.