A recent decision by a Pennsylvania judge has sent out a warning to employers: what you say to your employees can matter just as much as the legislation.A nursing assistant, Amy Medley, had applied for intermittent leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for her son. To qualify for FMLA leave, an employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours and be employed for 12 months prior to taking leave. While Medley had not yet met these requirements, her employer, the County of Montgomery, granted FMLA leave anyways. However, her employer then fired her for taking her intermittent leave. She in turn filed a lawsuit against her employer for violating her FMLA rights.
While the employer requested that the case be dismissed since Medley was never FMLA eligible, the court ruled that the FMLA entitlement was not the most important element of the case. The court stated that even if the leave was wrongfully granted, the employee relied on it and the absences were for something she had believed to qualify for, allowing her to pursue her claim under the estoppel theory.
This case is yet another example of the importance of understanding the intricacies of the FMLA. Leave managers, and all those involved in the leave process, need to be clear in their application of the act and know what qualifies and what does not. The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor has estimated that the average cost of a FMLA lawsuit is $78,000 regardless of the outcome. That is an expensive mistake and one that could have been easily avoided.
Founded in 1987, Presagia has a long history of helping organizations solve complex business problems with easy-to-use solutions. Today, this means providing cloud-based absence management solutions that enable organizations to be more efficient, control lost time and risk, and strengthen compliance with federal, state and municipal leave and accommodation laws.