EXAMINING THE POLICY IMPLICATIONS OF THE SPLIT AMONG CIRCUIT AND DISTRICT COURTS IN REGARDS TO CAUSES OF ACTION AGAINST PUBLIC EMPLOYERS UNDER THE FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT, PARTICULARLY IN VIEW OF THE RECENT DECISION IN SADOWKI V. U.S. POSTAL SERVICE,

Author: 

Alexander F. Hersonski

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) was intended to provide unpaid family and medical leave to employees suffering from a serious medical condition, or to employees having to take care of an immediate family member– including a foster or adoptive child–for up to twelve weeks. As part of the FMLA, an employee who has worked for an organization employing at least fifty individuals and who has been employed for at least twelve months with a minimum of 1250 work hours, is entitled to twelve weeks of leave in any 12- month period. Under a separate provision of the Act, an employee who enjoys the benefits of FMLA leave is entitled to be restored to her original position, or one equivalent to it, without any loss of accrued benefits. However, in order to prevent potentially retaliatory action by employers under the Act, Congress provided for a cause of action to employees adversely affected by the conduct of their employers. It is “unlawful for any employer to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of” rights under the FMLA. Employees deemed to have been adversely affected by an employer’s retaliatory or discriminatory conduct as regards the FMLA can recover lost wages and employment benefits, plus interest. Remedy under the FMLA may be accomplished in one of two ways. First, an employee may directly seek civil action for damages or equitable relief. Employees may seek injunctive relief in the form of a restoration of one’s previous position prior to termination or a position that the employee would have attained were it not for the unlawful termination. In addition, an FMLA plaintiff may file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor, who then has authority to investigate. However, plaintiffs may not recover punitive damages or damages for emotional distress resulting from a FMLA violation. View More