Smaller companies may more commonly make mistakes when it comes to interpreting employees' leave rights under California laws and federal laws due to fewer resources in these companies' human resources departments. But even larger companies can fail to properly protect employees' rights to return to their jobs after taking time off to care for themselves or for a family member.
This month, Aflac was required to shell out nearly $17,000 in a labor dispute over an employee's medical leave request. The U.S. Department of Labor reported that the company had been investigated for violations of medical leave rights when it fired a sick worker. Aflac had reportedly terminated the employee after the person took too many days off for a "serious health condition" between May 2011 and August 2011.
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, U.S. employees may take as many as 12 weeks off of work during a one-year or 12-month period for a serious medical condition that the employee or one of the employee's family members suffers from. This time off is unpaid, but the federal law ensures that an employee's job will be protected.
In the recent case involving Aflac, the company claimed that the employee was fired because the employee had forfeited protections under FMLA laws after the employee failed to submit the proper paperwork in a timely manner.
After investigating the complaint, the labor department ruled in favor of the employee, saying that the paperwork had in fact been submitted in time. Aflac had reportedly extended the period for submitting the documentation, but the company later argued that the submission deadline had expired before the employee submitted the necessary paperwork to take a medical leave under FMLA protections.
Source: Ledger-Enquirer, "Aflac pays nearly $17,000 to former employee to settle Family and Medical Leave Act violation case," Tony Adams, April 2, 2012