Not Telling Employee of FMLA Rights Costs Staples Big Time in DOL Settlement; $275K

If an employee comes to you saying he or she needs time off to care for an ill family member, make sure you inform the employee about the right to take family and medical leave. Otherwise, you could find yourself the target of a U.S. Department of Labor investigation and lawsuit.

According to the DOL, that simple act of informing an employee of his leave rights was what a subsidiaries of office supply company Staples didn’t do. And as a result the parent company is on the hook for $275,000 in back pay and damages to the aggrieved employee.

DOL alleged that when Jeffrey Angstadt, an employee of Staples Contract and Commercial Inc., a Staples subsidiary, informed his supervisor he needed time off to care for his critically ill wife, no one at Staples informed him of his rights as the law requires.

For the next two years, Angstadt used his personal, sick and vacation days, and worked remotely as needed to balance his work obligations and to care for his wife.

In January 2012, his supervisors decided Angstadt wasn’t meeting his job responsibilities, and the company fired him. Angstadt found himself without an income and critical health benefits when both were needed the most, the DOL charged.

Under the settlement, Staples owes the employee $137,500 in back pay and an equal amount in liquidated damages.

The ex-employee’s wife died in 2014.

Employers, do yourselves a favor and make sure you inform employees of their rights when they need time off for family responsibilities.

Read more about the settlement.

And here’s a DOL primer on employers’ FMLA responsibilities.

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