FMLA Lawsuits on the Rise

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Washington, DC: A new report from Bloomberg BNA (10/24/16) suggests the number of Family and Medical Leave Act lawsuits is on the rise. In California, FMLA lawsuits have been filed against employers, alleging violations of employee rights to family and medical leave.

According to a report by Bloomberg (10/24/16) the number of FMLA lawsuits filed has increased in the past four years. Based on data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the number of private lawsuits regarding FMLA complaints filed in federal courts in 2012 was 404. By 2015, that number had jumped to 1,181. During the same period, the number of FMLA complaints made to the Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division dropped from 1,723 in 2012 to 1,419 in 2015. Going further back, in 2010 there were 2,094 complaints filed with the DOL.

Among the complaints made about FMLA violations to the Department of Labor in 2015, the highest number of complaints involved job termination, followed by discrimination and refusal to grant FMLA leave. Although not all of the complaints were found to have involved actual violations, 672 cases were found to have violations. Those cases involved 818 employees and back wages of more than $1,900,000.

One possible reason for the increase in lawsuits and decrease in DOL complaints is that under the FMLA, employees do not need to file a complaint with the DOL before they file a lawsuit.

In California, an FMLA lawsuit was reportedly filed by a man who alleges he was fired for taking time off to care for his newborn children. According to the Northern California Record (10/11/16), Stanley T. Shen worked for Recreational Equipment Inc (REI) from March 2005 until October 2015. In both 2013 and 2015, he requested four weeks of unpaid FMLA leave so he could take care of his newborn children. In both cases, he was allegedly only given two weeks of FMLA leave.

The lawsuit alleges Shen was fired in retaliation for taking his FMLA leave.

Employees who have worked for a covered employer (either a public agency or a private employer who has 50 or more employees) for at least 12 months, for 1,250 or more hours during the year prior to the FMLA leave, and are at or within 75 miles of a location where at least 50 employees work are eligible for FMLA coverage.

The lawsuit is Shen v. Recreational Equipment, Inc., et al. 2:16-cv-07308, in US District Court for the Central District of California.

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