Running a small or midsize business comes with various challenges, including ensuring compliance with employment laws. One crucial aspect is understanding the penalties associated with violating these laws.  

In a recent case involving the Florida East Coast Railway, the U.S. Department of Labor uncovered a violation of federal family and medical leave protections, leading to severe consequences for the employer.  

This article aims to shed light on the penalties for breaking employment laws, emphasizing the importance of compliance for small and midsize business owners. 



Connect with an Asure HR expert to helpyour business comply with federal, state, and local employment laws.  


The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Investigation 

The FMLA is designed to safeguard employees from being forced to choose between their health and their job. It grants eligible workers the right to take unpaid, job-protected leave for qualifying medical and family-related reasons.  

In the case of the Florida East Coast Railway, an engineer who sought protected leave was wrongfully terminated, prompting an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. 


Violation Uncovered and Penalties Imposed 

During the investigation, it was revealed that the railway terminated a yard engineer in Jacksonville unlawfully after they requested federally protected leave for a qualifying health condition.  


The railway’s subsequent actions worsened the situation as it ordered a fit-for-duty medical examination without providing the employee with the required 30-day notice. Using the examination results, the employer retroactively rejected the worker’s original employment application, even after nearly eight years of service, citing a policy previously used only to terminate employees within their first 120 days of employment. 

Consequently, the Wage and Hour Division determined that Florida East Coast Railway’s retaliatory actions and termination violated the worker’s rights under the FMLA.  

To address this violation, the division recovered $25,000 in back wages for the engineer. This case serves as a stark reminder that employers must adhere to the law and respect their employees’ rights. 


The Significance of Compliance 

Small and midsize business owners should take note of this case and recognize the importance of complying with employment laws. Violations can lead to severe penalties, including back wages, fines, legal fees, and damage to a company’s reputation.  

Moreover, non-compliance can result in lengthy investigations that disrupt business operations and drain resources. 


Protecting Employee Rights 

It is crucial for employers to understand that federal laws protect workers’ rights when it comes to their health concerns.  

Employees should not fear losing their jobs or facing retaliation for seeking protected leave. Employers must create a supportive work environment that encourages employees to exercise their rights without consequence. By doing so, businesses can foster trust, loyalty, and a positive workplace culture. 


Lessons Learned and Moving Forward 

The Florida East Coast Railway case underscores the need for small and midsize business owners to prioritize compliance with employment laws.  


Familiarizing themselves with the FMLA and other relevant regulations is essential to avoid legal entanglements. Seeking legal counsel or consulting with human resources professionals can provide guidance and help establish policies and procedures that align with these laws. 



Understanding the penalties for breaking employment laws is crucial for small and midsize business owners. The recent case involving the Florida East Coast Railway highlights the consequences of violating the FMLA.  

Compliance with employment laws not only protects the rights of employees but also safeguards the interests of the business itself. By promoting a culture of compliance and respecting employee rights, businesses can avoid penalties, maintain a positive reputation, and create a harmonious work environment. 

Connect with an Asure HR expert to helpyour business comply with federal, state, and local employment laws.

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