Court Approves Consent Judgment Against School Board On Multiple FMLA Violations

Resolving a suit brought by the Department of Labor (DOL) alleging violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a federal district court in West Virginia approved a consent judgment ordering the Putnam County Board of Education to pay $50,000 in back wages to a former employee. The judgment also orders the defendants to implement several specific measures to ensure future compliance with the FMLA.

The DOL filed suit following an investigation by its Wage and Hour Division that found the school board unlawfully terminated the employee when he asked to take time off to care for a parent with a serious health condition. Investigators found that the school board retaliated against the employee for requesting leave that was FMLA-protected when it first attempted to force him to resign and then ultimately terminated his employment. According to the DOL, the school board failed to provide the employee with any of the required FMLA notices about his rights under the law, which prevented him from asserting his FMLA rights and hindered his ability to make an educated decision about requesting leave. Also, the school board did not post any notice of employees’ rights under the FMLA in conspicuous places as required by law and failed to include adequate information notifying all employees of FMLA leave protections in its employee handbook.

Pursuant to the court-approved consent judgment, the school board has agreed to implement a number of measures to prevent future violations of the FMLA. These measures include designating individuals who will be responsible for ensuring proper administration of the FMLA; posting the official FMLA poster in conspicuous places so employees in all schools within the Putnam County Board of Education system can see it; training managers and supervisors on FMLA rules and requirements, and providing the DOL with notice of completion of all such trainings; and providing all personnel a written FMLA handbook explaining the employer’s and employees’ rights and responsibilities under the FMLA.

Additionally, the school board must review all denied requests for employee leave for the 2012-2013 school year to ensure that it did not interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of any right provided under the FMLA, and remedy any FMLA-related errors found. This will include restoring any affected employee to the leave, pay and employment position he or she would have occupied had the FMLA-related error not occurred. The school board must conduct a similar review and provide all appropriate remedies to any current or former employees who allege within the next six months that they were not afforded their rights under the FMLA at any time during the two-year period prior to the consent judgment.

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