Many employees in Colorado are probably familiar with Aflac, the supplemental insurance company with commercials featuring a duck that screams the company's name. The ads are often odd and sometimes funny. Unfortunately for Aflac, the company recently had to pay out a decidedly unfunny $17,000 settlement to a former employee because the U.S. Department of Labor determined the company violated the Family and Medical Leave Act.
According to the lawsuit, the employee was fired for taking leave due to a serious health condition in 2011. Aflac stated that the employee failed to submit the required documentation in time to fall under FMLA protection. However, the labor department disagreed, ruling that the employee in fact submitted the documentation in a timely manner that was in accordance with FMLA requirements.
The FMLA is meant to protect employees in this type of situation, allowing for unpaid absences of up to 12 weeks per year and continuation of group health insurance during the time off.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, FMLA violations are more common for small businesses. Larger businesses usually have bigger human resources departments to ensure compliance with the law and help employees with documentation. Discrimination lawsuits based on the FMLA appear to be a growing concern for the labor department, which has added 200 investigators over the last two years.
Colorado businesses should be aware that FMLA compliance is an important issue for their bottom lines and reputations. Not only are there financial risks involved with non-compliance; no business wants to be labeled as inflexible when its employees face troubling situations such as serious health concerns. Likewise, employees in the Denver area will want to be fully aware of their rights under the FMLA.
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