Employers should train managers on FMLA rights

Many Wisconsin employees may be unaware of their rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and their supervisors at work may not be clear on what the policies do and do not permit. Staples, the office supply chain, was forced to pay one of its former employees $250,000 because instead of telling him he could take time off to take care of his wife, who was terminally ill, the company had him working from home. The man was fired, and he successfully sued Staples for interference.

Some employers do not train their supervisors on how to recognize a legitimate FMLA request because the regulations are so complex. However, this can result in supervisors who do not understand what is and is not a legitimate request, and as a result, supervisors may inadvertently penalize employees.

Employers should conduct regular refresher training sessions for supervisors as well. They should also put up posters in a conspicuous place that delineate FMLA rights and responsibilities.

People who need FMLA leave may be dealing with their own serious illness or injury or that of a family member, and it can be a particularly stressful time. They may not fully understand their rights, including what qualifies for paid and unpaid leave, and they might want to speak to an attorney. Whether an employer does so on purpose or not may not be relevant, and if a person is demoted, terminated or faces other retaliation, they may be able to file a lawsuit against the employer. Even if an employer’s actions are not this blatant, an employee might feel intimidation or pressure to not take the leave, and this might also be illegal.

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