Denying FMLA leave could lead to personal liability

Wisconsin employees may be interested to learn that a federal appellate court has ruled that a human resources director could be considered an employer and thus held responsible for violating the Family and Medical Leave Act. A payroll administrator who had been at a company for five years submitted a FMLA request to care for her teenage son who had just been diagnosed with diabetes. She returned to work after 12 days and at the end of that same month, she submitted paperwork supporting her need for the FMLA leave.

However, the very same day that she submitted the paperwork, another one of her sons fractured his leg and had to undergo surgery. The woman asked for leave until July 9, about two weeks, and then when her supervisor followed up with her on that day, she said she could return on July 12 but needed to work part-time until August. The woman also asked if she needed to provide documentation. The supervisor turned the case over to the human resources director.

What followed appeared to be a communication breakdown, and two months later, the woman was fired. The court found that the woman had attempted to comply and that furthermore, the human resources director acted as an employer and could be held financially responsible.

Employees should feel free to exercise their FMLA rights, and if they think their employment rights are being violated, they might want to speak to an attorney. Employees should attempt to comply with requests for information and documentation, but employers are not permitted to harass or retaliate against them for taking FMLA leave. Employees should keep records of any conversations and document what occurs because this will help in building a case if it is necessary to file a lawsuit.

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