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.


Action Items

  1. Have appropriate personnel trained on FMLA requirements and employee rights.
  2. Review employee process to request FMLA leave to ensure compliance.
  3. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser. © 2022 ManagEase