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Some employers have gotten themselves into legal trouble with the Family and Medical Leave Act.
In January 2015, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled in Terry Tilley v. Kalamazoo County Road Commission; Kalamazoo County Road Commission Board of Commissioners that a commission employee was entitled to FMLA coverage, even though the commission was not obligated to provide the coverage, because of a misleading statement in its employee manual.
While the 6th Circuit agreed with the district court that the commission did not have the required 50-employee/75-mile threshold that normally required it to provide FMLA coverage, the commission’s employee manual stated that employees covered under the FMLA “are full-time employees who have worked for the road commission and accumulated 1,250 work hours in the previous 12 months.”
“Make sure your employee handbook is up to date,” said Lindsay Freedman, an associate with the
Thatcher Law Firm L.L.C. in Greenbelt, Maryland. “And that you have a section on what an employee
should do when they request leave. Make sure your policies are clear.”
Some smaller companies may be using a handbook that has not been updated or that has not been reviewed by an attorney, he said.
“Maybe they got some stock language online that doesn’t pass muster with the law,” he said.
Meanwhile, an employee’s privacy became an issue in an FMLA case last year.
In January 2017, a court ruled an employer violated the FMLA when an employee’s request, which included his personal medical information, was revealed to co-workers who teased him about it.
In Scott Holtrey v. Collier County Board of County Commissioners, the U.S. District Court in Fort Myers, Florida, found that the “enforcing labor regulation makes clear that confidentiality of medical information is a right provided and protected under the FMLA.”
The court also refused to dismiss Mr. Holtrey’s retaliation claim, stating his allegations of co-workers’ repeated and frequent jokes and obscene gestures about his condition “suffice to state an adverse employment action.”
The Family and Medical Leave Act celebrated a milestone birthday in February, but employers still struggle to comply with the 25-year-old law.