As small and midsize business owners, it is crucial to understand and uphold the rights of your employees. A recent case investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor serves as a reminder of the consequences faced by employers who violate the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Wicked Taco Inc., operating as Wicked Cantina in Bradenton Beach, Florida, was found to have denied a former employee protected medical leave and terminated their employment shortly after.  

 

 

 
The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $60,065 in back wages and damages for the employee. This article aims to raise awareness among business owners regarding the penalties for FMLA violations and provide actionable steps to ensure compliance with the law. Proper FMLA training could have prevented this adverse action. Click here to learn how cost-effective outsourced HR compliance training can be with Asure. 
 

Understanding the Violation 

Wicked Cantina failed to inform the employee of their rights under the FMLA and denied them protected leave despite doctor’s orders. After a hospitalization, the worker was instructed by their doctor not to resume work duties for three days.  

 However, on the same day of their release, Wicked Cantina instructed the employee to work, disregarding the doctor’s orders. The employer did not provide notification of the employee’s FMLA rights or the required forms and notifications. 

 

Termination and Legal Action 

Less than a week later, the employee was terminated by the restaurant’s general manager on grounds of alleged excessive tardiness and spreading rumors. The U.S. Department of Labor filed a lawsuit and obtained a consent judgment in the U.S. District Court, ordering Wicked Taco to pay back wages and damages. The judgment also prohibits the employer from future FMLA violations. 

 

Penalties and Compliance Measures 

Non-compliance with the FMLA can have severe consequences for businesses. To avoid violations and penalties, consider the following actions: 

Educate Yourself on the FMLA 

Familiarize yourself with the provisions and requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Understand employee eligibility, qualifying reasons for leave, and the notification and documentation process. 

 

Communicate Employee Rights 

Ensure that employees are aware of their rights under the FMLA. Provide written materials explaining their entitlement to protected leave and how to request it. Display required FMLA posters in visible areas of your workplace. 

 

Train Managers and Supervisors 

Train your managers and supervisors on FMLA’s provisions, employee rights, and the importance of compliance. Emphasize the need to support and accommodate employees who require medical leave. 

 

Establish a Clear Policy 

Develop a comprehensive FMLA policy that outlines the procedures for requesting and taking leave, including documentation requirements and notice periods. Communicate this policy to all employees and make it readily accessible. 

 

Maintain Accurate Records 

Implement a robust recordkeeping system to track employee leave requests, approvals, and return-to-work dates. Retain all relevant FMLA-related documents, such as medical certifications and correspondence. 

 

Avoid Retaliation 

Ensure that employees who exercise their FMLA rights are not subjected to retaliation or adverse actions. Educate managers and supervisors on the importance of treating employees fairly and avoiding retaliatory measures. 

 

Seek Legal Guidance 

When in doubt or facing complex FMLA situations, consult with employment law experts or HR professionals. They can provide guidance tailored to your specific circumstances and help you navigate compliance requirements. 

 

Conclusion 

Compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act is essential for small and midsize business owners. By understanding the FMLA, communicating employee rights, and implementing effective policies and procedures, you can avoid violations and protect your employees’ rights. The recent case involving Wicked Cantina serves as a reminder of the legal and financial consequences of FMLA violations.  

Remember, prioritizing employee well-being and compliance with the law not only fosters a positive work environment but also strengthens your business reputation. It is crucial to stay updated on employment laws and regulations to ensure you provide a supportive and compliant workplace. To learn more about the FMLA and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, visit their website for valuable resources such as the FMLA Compliance Assistance Toolkit.  

 Additionally, if you have any questions or concerns about compliance, you can contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).  

 Remember, protecting the rights of your employees is not only a legal obligation but also an ethical responsibility. By adhering to the FMLA and other employment laws, you demonstrate your commitment to creating a fair and supportive work environment. Taking proactive measures to understand and comply with these laws will help you avoid costly penalties, legal disputes, and damaged relationships with your employees. 

 
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