Everyone needs time off from work sometimes due to a medical or family emergency. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires New York employers with at least 50 employees to offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to deal with a “serious health condition” or care for a new child. New York plans to go further: Starting in 2018, state law will require employers to give employees up to 8 weeks of paid leave at 50% of their normal wages. By 2021, this will expand to 12 weeks of leave at two-thirds pay. (New York City currently has a separate paid leave law in force.)
Report: Wal-Mart Violates FMLA, Engages in Disability Discrimination
Despite the broad political and public support for mandatory sick leave,
some large employers may be balking at their obligations. Recently a New
York-based legal organization that advocates for worker rights published
a report accusing Wal-Mart, one of the nation's largest employers,
of disciplining its employees “for occasional absences” related
to medical or family care. The report suggests that Wal-Mart “may
regularly be violating the Family and Medical Leave Act” by not
properly informing employees about their rights under the law. Indeed,
the report claims that less than one-fourth of Wal-Mart employees surveyed
“who were absent [from work] and are likely FMLA eligible were notified
of the FMLA.”
More to the point, the report cites multiple employee claims that Wal-Mart
management assigns “disciplinary points” for taking leave,
even when it is covered by FMLA. If an employee receives nine points over
a six-month period, he or she will be fired, according to the New York
Times. One New York-based Wal-Mart employee told the report's authors
that she was “pointed” after she took time off from work to
attend to her daughter, who was in the intensive care unit following a
suicide attempt. The employee said her manager reneged on a promise to
take her off the schedule, and instead opted to discipline her for attending
to the medical emergency.
The report further accuses Wal-Mart of committing illegal disability discrimination
by refusing to make “reasonable accommodation” for employees
who ask managers for an excused absence due to a temporary medical condition.
Specifically, the report says Wal-Mart refused to consider doctors'
notes. For example, one employee said he suffered from “very bad
asthma and allergies” that required him to miss work, but Wal-Mart
management declined to accept his doctors' notes and instead assessed
disciplinary points against him.
Have You Been Illegally Disciplined for Taking Family or Medical Leave?
Of course, this report is not a legal finding by a government agency or
even a formal lawsuit. Wal-Mart told the New York Times that it has procedures
in place to ensure employees can “successfully authorize their absences
from work.” But the firsthand accounts of multiple Wal-Mart employees
suggest that the company's managers may not be following these procedures.
If you suspect your employer has violated your rights under medical leave
or disability laws, you should speak with a qualified New York employment
law attorney who can review your case and help determine if you have a
cause of action. Contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar if you need
legal assistance today.