- Because a manager allegedly refused to abide by an employee's reduced schedule — with the time off approved as Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave — the worker's claim may head to trial, a federal district court ruled (Hudak v. Arielle Brandy and St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners, No. 3:18-cv-00932 (N.D. Ind., Oct. 27, 2020)).
- The plaintiff submitted paperwork requesting FMLA leave to allow her to limit her work days to eight hours, as directed by her doctor. The employer approved the request but her manager continued to schedule her for additional hours, she alleged. When she pushed back, the supervisor insisted she work the longer hours and said she would be "subject to a performance review" if she didn't, according to court documents; she resigned and sued.
- The employer moved for summary judgment but the district court declined to the dismiss the case. Employer interference with FMLA benefits isn’t limited to denial of leave, the court said; "interference also encompasses using the taking of FMLA leave as a negative factor in employment actions and discouraging an employee from using such leave." A reasonable juror could conclude that the employer discouraged the employee from taking leave and therefore interfered with her FMLA rights, it said, clearing the FMLA interference claim for trial.
Employers may not "interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of, or the attempt to exercise" the rights provided by the FMLA, accoridng to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), which means that employers can't discriminate or retaliate against employees who take or attempt to take such leave.
Interference can take many forms. General Motors Co., for example, paid $12,265 to settle charges that it improperly disciplined an employee for absences protected by the FMLA. An investigation by DOL's Wage and Hour Division determined that GM's delay in approving the employee's leave request caused the worker to be suspended for missing work. In another instance, a court denied summary judgment for an employer that denied an employee's request for intermittent leave and instead placed him on continuous leave. Another employer was found to have interfered with an employee's FMLA rights when its leave administrator delayed a worker's return to work by a month.
Employment law experts recommend that managers be trained on the FMLA's requirements, including how to recognize FMLA requests and when to escalate requests to HR. In addition, supervisors and managers should be trained to avoid statements or undertaking actions that could discourage an employee from taking leave.