Why Your Supervisors and Managers Should Know More about FMLA

by Elizabeth Fuss on February 18, 2013

in Compliance,Family Leave,Training


Every day at Cascade, my fellow HR Consultants and I get calls regarding family leave. In fact, it’s the topic we get asked about most. Sometimes it’s a call from HR after they find out that an employee has been absent for a while for a reason that is likely covered under state (OFLA) or federal family leave (FMLA). Maybe the supervisor didn’t know about family leave qualifying situations, or maybe they just didn’t notice how long the employee had been out. When HR catches these situations in time, they can usually be remedied. But what happens when the supervisor has given disciplinary action for absences that should have been protected by family leave? Or when a manager has decided that the absences just can’t be tolerated and decides to terminate the employee?

Recently, in Patrick Hurley vs. Kent of Naples , we saw what could happen. Patrick Hurley, who suffered from depression and anxiety, was the President of a company. He reported to the CEO that he had been receiving treatment for this condition and needed some time off, per his doctor’s instructions. The CEO responded by terminating Hurley’s employment. Hurley filed a lawsuit, alleging that the CEO and the company had interfered with his FMLA rights and had engaged in retaliation against him for requesting time off under FMLA. The case went to a jury trial, which was decided in favor of Mr. Hurley.

As a result, the company will now have to pay out about $1.2 million dollars, including back pay, damages and attorneys’ fees. As is always the case, this company would have greatly benefitted from educating its supervisors and managers on FMLA qualifying situations and the protections that FMLA offers to employees, so that they could have prevented this situation. The cost of training your supervisors and managers on family leave basics is much, much less than $1.2 million.

Are your supervisors and managers trained on family leave? No? Don’t worry – Cascade can help! We have a Family Leave Basics for Supervisors training that we can bring on-site to your company to ensure that your supervisors and managers are educated and prepared to handle FMLA situations.


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