Denying FMLA leave could prove costly for company and supervisor
Not only can an employer be sued for allegedly denying an employee the right to take leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but supervisors and HR decision makers may also face individual liability for their actions.
Not only can an employer be sued for allegedly denying an employee the right to take leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but supervisors and HR decision makers may also face individual liability for their actions. An employee sought FMLA leave to care for her disabled son, but she asked for time off during the company’s busy season during which all personal leave was prohibited. Her supervisor allegedly told her that she was “stubborn and hard-headed” for asking for time off during the busy season. He also informed her that she should bring in a letter of resignation if she continued to insist on time off during that time period. Not surprisingly, the court is allowing the employee to present her claim to a jury to determine if the company interfered with her FMLA rights. The court is also allowing an individual claim against the supervisor to go forward, meaning he can be held personally liable for his role in any unlawful employment action (Baca v. State of New Mexico, D New Mexico, Sept. 2011). <!--?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?-->
Tips: Supervisors are far more likely to grasp the importance of following FMLA rules if they understand that they can be held individually liable for their role in violating the law. Even during your busy season, employees have a right to take time off if they are eligible for FMLA and the absence otherwise qualifies. Supervisors are naturally trying to keep production going, but they should be aware of the dangers of holding absences against an employee who has a protected right to take that time off. Check out our Legal Guide, “At a Glance: Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)” (5151) for a brief overview of your rights and obligations under the FMLA.