Seventh Circuit: Discouraging Use of FMLA Leave Can Be a FMLA Interference Violation
FMLA Employers with IL, IN, and WI Employees
June 1, 2022
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In Ziccarelli v. Dart, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals stated that an employer discouraging an employee from taking FMLA leave without an actual denial of FMLA leave is sufficient to violate FMLA. FMLA states it is unlawful for a covered employer to “interfere with, restrain, or deny” an employee’s right to FMLA leave. The “attempt to exercise” FMLA is included among the protected activities named in the statute. Further, Department of Labor regulations implementing FMLA also define interference to include discouraging an eligible employee from using FMLA leave.
There, a corrections officer with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office informed his FMLA manager of his intent to use both FMLA and sick leave to enter into a doctor-recommended post-traumatic stress disorder treatment program. Despite having FMLA hours available for the remainder of the year, the FMLA manager warned the corrections officer that he would be disciplined for taking any more FMLA leave since he had already taken a significant amount. The corrections officer chose to retire rather than face potential discipline. In reaching its decision, the Seventh Circuit noted FMLA rights would be significantly diminished if employers could actively discourage employees from accessing FMLA benefits.
- Have appropriate personnel trained on FMLA requirements and employee rights.
- Review employee process to request FMLA leave to ensure compliance.
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