Staples Settles Case Involving Failure to Provide FMLA Notice

A Federal district court has approved a settlement requiring Staples to pay $275,000 for failing to notify an employee of his Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave rights. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) held that the store’s omission of FMLA leave rights led the employee to make uneducated guesses while caring for his critically ill wife over a span of two years.

In 2007, Jeffrey Angstadt started working as a marketing manager for Corporate Express and stayed in the position after the company was purchased by Staples. In 2010, Angstadt’s wife was diagnosed with cancer. Soon after the diagnosis, Angstadt notified his supervisor that he needed to take leave to care for his wife.

Over the next two years, Angstadt used personal vacation and sick leave intermittently to take of his wife during her treatment and its complications. He also worked remotely and adjusted his schedule to meet work obligations.

In March 2011, Angstadt was transferred to the role of furniture sales executive. In January 2012, he was fired for failing to meet his job expectations.

After an investigation by the DOL Wage and Hour Division, a lawsuit was filed in June 2013 stating that failure to notify Angstadt of his FMLA rights violated the FMLA. Angstadt’s wife passed away in 2014.

FMLA regulations require an employer to notify the employee of his or her FMLA eligibility and rights and responsibilities within 5 business days after receiving an FMLA request or finding out that an employee’s leave may qualify for FMLA.

This settlement should serve as a reminder to employers of such things as:

  1. Providing required notices to an employee is an employer’s very first step in complying with Federal leave law.
  2. Simply inserting a notice of FMLA requirements in an employee handbook is not adequate for full compliance.
  3. The employee does not have to use any magic words like “FMLA leave” when requesting time off.

About John Garner

John Garner has over thirty five years of experience in employee benefits. He specializes in compliance, health care reform, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). He helps clients with life, health, and disability benefits, cost containment, flexible benefits, and claim consulting.

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