News Release

US Department of Labor recovers $438K for 2 workers illegally terminated by Alabama car manufacturer after they took protected leave

Mercedes-Benz US International Inc. failed to tell workers about their leave rights

VANCE, AL – The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $438,625 in back wages, unpaid bonuses, equitable remedy and liquidated damages for two former Mercedes-Benz workers in Alabama after the employer violated their rights to protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division found Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc. illegally fired two production workers after they requested to use FMLA-protected leave. One employee requested the leave for a qualifying health condition of a family member, and another worker did so for a personal serious health condition. The employer further discriminated against workers when it reprimanded them and denied monthly attendance bonuses because of absences, which led to termination under the employer’s point system, even though the leave was protected in both cases.

The division’s investigators determined the employer also failed to:

  • Inform employees that they may be eligible for FMLA leave within five business days of learning their requests could qualify. 
  • Reinstate workers to the same or equivalent positions
  • Accurately record, maintain and calculate the amount of FMLA leave taken.
  • Provide notice of FMLA rights and responsibilities, as required by law.
  • Designate leave as FMLA-qualifying when appropriate.

The department’s investigation led to the recovery of $219,312 for the former employees. The total includes missed earnings after being terminated, front pay for three months and unpaid bonuses, plus an additional $219,312 in liquidated damages for the affected workers.

“Employers cannot deprive eligible workers of their legal right to family and medical leave and force them to make the hard choice between keeping their jobs and caring for themselves or their families,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Kenneth Stripling in Birmingham, Alabama. “Federal law allows for critically needed workplace flexibilities precisely when employees need them the most. The U.S. Department of Labor will defend workers’ rights and pursue all available remedies when those rights are violated.” 

In fiscal year 2023, the Wage and Hour Division concluded 334 FMLA compliance actions with violations and recovered more than $987,000 in back wages for 395 workers.

Learn more about the FMLA and other laws enforced by the division, including an FMLA compliance assistance toolkit, or contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).

Workers and employers can call the 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.

Wage and Hour Division
February 29, 2024
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Media Contact: Erika Ruthman
Media Contact: Eric R. Lucero
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