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by Martha J. Cardi, J.D. and Megan G. Holstein, J.D.

Failing to Train Supervisors in FMLA:  $1.2 Million Loss to Employer

A jury verdict in a recent FMLA case reminds employers of the perils and high costs of not training managers and supervisors regarding employee leave rights and employer obligations under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Patrick Hurley was employed as president by Kent Security, a security and investigation services company, from 2001 until his termination in 2008.  Around 2005 Hurley developed depression and was prescribed medications and treatment with a therapist.  In 2008 his medical condition deteriorated and he was advised to take medical leave to recover.  Hurley requested leave from his boss, who denied his request.  Despite pointing out that the leave was medically necessary and formally asking for FMLA leave, the boss terminated Hurley.

Hurley’s FMLA claims for interference with his FMLA leave rights went to a jury trial.  He won the case and was awarded the damages identified below, a total of over $750,000.  The employer’s total loss, including Hurley’s and its own attorneys’ fees and costs, exceeded $1.2 million.

DAMAGES ITEM

COMMENT

AMOUNT

Back pay Common award in termination   case – lost wages up to date of judgment

$200,000

Front pay Awarded if employee has not   yet become re-employed at time of judgment – lost wages looking forward for a   period of time

$353,901

Pre-judgment   interest – on back pay only Always awarded; rate and   whether interest is compounded varies

$8,000

[est.   2 years at 5%]

Liquidated damages Similar to punitive damages –frequently   awarded in FMLA cases

$200,000

Plaintiff’s attorney’s fees   and costs Employer pays if employee   wins

$233,109  [fees]

$21,329   [costs]

Employer’s estimated   attorney’s fees and costs Employer always pays (and is   usually larger than employee’s fees)

$250,000     [est.]

TOTAL COST TO EMPLOYER  

$1,266,339

Managers and supervisors do not need to be FMLA leave experts.  However, they need to have a basic understanding of the leave rights provided by the FMLA (and other laws such as the ADA) in order to avoid million-dollar mistakes like Hurley’s supervisor committed.  Managers should be able to identify potential FMLA situations and enlist the aid of Human Resources.

The case:  Hurley v. Kent of Naples, Inc., et al., Case No. 2:2010cv00334 (M.D. Fla. Jan. 2013).

Reed Group is available to counsel with clients and other employers about supervisor training on employees’ FMLA, ADA, and state leave rights.  We manage leaves of absence and therefore have a unique perspective on the necessary training, based on handling thousands of cases and interacting with supervisors and human resources personnel.  For more information call 866-218-4650.

Compliance Team

Compliance Team

James Venable, JD, SPHR, is the Vice President of Employment Law, Absence and Accommodation Compliance at ReedGroup, where he provides expertise in Absence Management Compliance and Employee Relations Counseling. Mr. Venable has more than 20 years of experience across senior roles in Legal, Human Resources, and Compliance from several Fortune 500 companies. Mr. Venable joined ReedGroup in April 2018 after serving as Vice President of Human Resources, Employee Relations, Labor Relations, Compliance and Environmental Health and Safety for Comcast, where he was responsible for engagement and labor relations activities for the company’s West Division Business Unit.

Lori Welty, Esq. is a Compliance Attorney at ReedGroup. Ms. Welty provides expertise in all areas of state and federal leave law, including Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and their state law equivalents as well as disability and family leave benefits. Ms. Welty is an ongoing author of ReedGroup’s LeaveAdvisor online reference tool, as well as many other white papers and articles.

Sheri Pullen is a Compliance Analyst at Reed Group. Ms. Pullen develops leave of absence and disability content across a variety of platforms and provides compliance analysis, direction, and expertise regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), state leave laws, and ERISA as it relates to disability plans. Ms. Pullen has a strong compliance-focused background comprised of more than 20 years of experience in writing, editing, business analysis, and consulting.

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