WHD News Release: [05/20/2013]
Contact Name: Joanna Hawkins or Leni Fortson
Phone Number: (215) 861-5101 or x5102
Email: Hawkins.Joanna@dol.gov or firstname.lastname@example.org
Release Number: 13-0753-PHI
Putnam County Board of Education agrees to organization-wide FMLA compliance, resolving US Labor Department lawsuit
Consent judgment also includes order to pay $50,000 in lost wages to former employee
WINFIELD, W.Va. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia has approved a consent judgment ordering the Putnam County Board of Education in Winfield to pay $50,000 in back wages to a former employee to resolve a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor alleging violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act. The judgment also orders the defendants to implement several specific measures to ensure future compliance with the FMLA.
The department filed suit following an investigation by its Wage and Hour Division that found the school board unlawfully had terminated the employee, who worked as a maintenance electrician, when he asked to take time off to care for a parent with a serious health condition. Investigators found that the school board retaliated against the employee for requesting leave that was FMLA-protected when it first attempted to force him to resign and then ultimately terminated his employment. The school board had failed to provide the employee with any of the required FMLA notices about his rights under the law. This failure prevented him from asserting his FMLA rights and hindered his ability to make an educated decision about requesting leave. Also, the school board did not post any notice of employees' rights under the FMLA in conspicuous places as required by law and failed to include adequate information notifying all employees of FMLA leave protections in its employee handbook.
"Today's judgment provides peace of mind for Putnam County Board of Education employees and their families who rely on the FMLA's critical workplace flexibility protections," said Mary Beth Maxwell, acting deputy administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. "This case demonstrates the Labor Department's commitment to ensuring that employees are not retaliated against or prevented from exercising their FMLA rights. The school board has agreed to some significant compliance assurance measures. We encourage other employers to adopt similar proactive approaches to educating their workforces about the FMLA and ensuring sustained compliance with the law."
Pursuant to the court-approved consent judgment, the school board has agreed to implement a number of measures in order to prevent future violations of the FMLA. These measures include designating (a) manager(s) who will be responsible for ensuring proper administration of the FMLA; posting the official FMLA poster in conspicuous places so employees in all schools within the Putnam County Board of Education system can see it; training managers and supervisors on FMLA rules and requirements, and providing the Labor Department with notice of completion of all such trainings; and providing all personnel a written FMLA handbook explaining the employer's and employees' rights and responsibilities under the act.
Additionally, the school board must review all denied requests for employee leave for the 2012-2013 school year to ensure that it did not interfere with, restrain or deny the exercise of any right provided under the FMLA, and remedy any FMLA-related errors found to include restoring any affected employee to the leave, pay and employment position he or she would have occupied had the FMLA-related error not occurred. The school board must conduct a similar review and provide all appropriate remedies to any current or former employees who allege within the next six months that they were not afforded their rights under the FMLA at any time during the two-year period prior to the consent judgment.
The FMLA allows eligible employees to take 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 jobs and with continuation of health care coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. FMLA leave may also be taken for specified reasons related to certain military deployments and to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness. An employer is prohibited from interfering with, restraining, or denying the exercise of, or the attempt to exercise, an FMLA right. Prohibited conduct includes refusal to authorize FMLA leave for an eligible employee.
Current and former employees who worked for the Putnam County Board of Education system and believe that they were denied the exercise of any right provided under FMLA during the past two years should contact the school system at 304-586-0500 or the Wage and Hour Division's area office in Charleston, W.Va., at 304-347-5206.
The Labor Department's regional solicitor office in Philadelphia negotiated the resolution of this case.
A copy of the FMLA poster prepared by the department (WH 1420) is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/fmla.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 Charleston Area Office. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.