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Company denies FMLA benefits, pays in court

Poor choices based on a faulty understanding of employment law can lead to major litigation costs and damages levied against Pennsylvania employers. In one such case, a woman lost her job after a denial of leave time to care for her autistic son.

The case was decided by a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The woman had previously requested leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act in 2011, but problems arose when she needed to be at home with her son the following year. The plaintiff asked for a work-at-home situation that would compensate her fairly and still allow her to care for her child. The company later instituted a new policy requiring all work be done on site. Instead of explaining the FMLA leave rules to the woman, an HR officer told her to come in or lose her position.

The case was affirmed on appeal. The FMLA allows 12 weeks for each year period to employees who have a qualifying family responsibility. The court also found other violations of employment law, all of which ultimately resulted in awarding the plaintiff double damages and full attorney fees.

Employees enjoy a number of protections under the law, but these can be rendered useless when employers are the sole source of information. A jury and appeals court ruled in this case, for instance, that the company was or should have been well aware of FMLA benefits. Workers who feel they face discrimination for taking family leave or have been denied their rights under thereunder may benefit from discussing the situation with an experienced attorney.

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