The DOL not only provides guidance on the FMLA, but it also enforces the law.


Kind of like that guy, except without the snazzy mustache and a lot less British.

For those of you who have had the misfortune of defending a lawsuit under the Family and Medical Leave Act, I’m guessing that most have you have done so in federal court, and it involved an employee with a private attorney.

Conversely, I’ll bet that very few of you have dealt with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division in this context. Usually, when we think of wage and hour and enforcement, we think Fair Labor Standards Act. But the WHD is also in charge of the FMLA. (See yesterday’s post.)

And sometimes, rather than dangle carrots of proactive advice, the WHD needs to bust out the stick in anticipation of litigation.

Earlier this week, the WHD announced that it had settled a dispute — with a public-sector employer, no less — to have it reinstate an employee “wrongly disciplined and terminated for absences protected under federal law and paid them $77,314 in back wages to resolve violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act.”

Here is more from the release:

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division investigation determined the [employer] wrongly denied the employee’s request for leave for an FMLA-qualified condition. The denial of FMLA benefits by the employer resulted in wrongful discipline and subsequent termination of the worker’s employment which prompted the investigation.

In addition to recovering the worker’s back wages, the division ensured the employer reinstated them to an equivalent position, including equivalent salary, benefits, retirement plan and accrued leave they would have earned had the employer not wrongly terminated them. 

Ironically, this employer “leads the state’s efforts to prevent disease, injury and disability, promotes health and well-being, and prepares for and responds to disasters from a health perspective.”

But I digress.

Whether it’s federal court litigation or a WHD investigation, FMLA investigations and enforcement later can be a lot less fun and much more expensive than FMLA compliance now.

“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”
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