Courts across the U.S. ruled in dozens of cases dealing with Family and Medical Leave Act labor laws over the past 12 months, and Marjory Robertson, assistant vice president and senior counsel at Sun Life Insurance, said she’s read the decision in every one.
She and Megan Holstein, senior vice president of Absence & Claims at Fineos, presented key takeaways from the courts’ rulings at the Disability Management Employer Coalition Online Summit on Jan. 29. The summit aims to educate employers about the legalities and best practices of FMLA leave.
Violating FMLA labor laws is a costly mistake for employers. For example, an Iowa jury awarded an employee nearly $5.4 million in Hawkins v. Grinnel Regional Medical Center.
After Gregory Hawkins’ cancer diagnosis, doctors said he could return to work part-time. His employer said the company couldn’t accommodate part-time work and told him to resign or retire in 90 days. Hawkins responded with a revised doctor’s note allowing him to work full-time, but his employer then told him that he had 30 days to resign or retire.
Hawkins refused, and he was fired within a year due to performance problems. He sued under the Iowa Civil Rights Act for disability discrimination.
A jury awarded Hawkins nearly $5.4 million. Grinnel would have been responsible for that cost, along with its own attorney fees, but the Iowa Supreme Court reversed the decision and ordered a new trial due to the district court admitting hearsay.
Robertson said the case is still an important lesson to employers about the cost of making mistakes when working with FMLA leave.
This infographic outlines what courts determined to be FMLA interference and retaliation in opinions issued in the last 12 months.
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