A Legal Nightmare is Waiting For Employers Who Do Not Train Their Managers on FMLA and ADA

We get calls from all around the country from employees who want to know if their Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rights have been violated. We explain that we are not attorneys. But here is one of the stories I was told by a caller:

I am 52 years old and I worked for (one of the biggest pet store chains in the US) XYZ as a store manager. At work I slipped on some water, fell and hurt my hip. I have a bad hip, and the doctor said I needed hip surgery. I went to my regional manager and told him I needed two weeks off for surgery.

I asked the caller, “Did they offer your FMLA paper work, and explain to you your FMLA rights? Did they give you the forms, et al?”

No, all he said was that he could not give me two weeks off but only one week. I had the surgery, came back and my doctor told me not to lift anything more than 20 pounds. I told my manager this restriction. Things went fine until one day some of the guys, who move dog food around, did not show for work and the manager told me to move them. I reminded him of my restriction of 20 pounds and he said “just bend from the knees, and move it all.” I reinjured myself and as I could barely move, things were not getting done in the store as fast and my regional manager fired me for bad performance.

Again we could not give him legal advice, but this is a classic example of a company not training its management/supervisors in Family Medical Leave Act and Americans with Disabilities Act. This man was entitled to up to 12 weeks of job protected leave and should have been given the forms and an explanation of his rights. Supervisors are personally liable for violating FMLA. Also, when he came back to work the weight restriction was a reasonable accommodation and should have been made via the ADA.

Imagine the lawsuit the man above might initiate. This all could have been avoided by having a 1 hour training session, twice a year with every manager and supervisor of XYZ. This is why we provide FMLA and ADA training for managers/supervisors. It is not enough that the HR dept knows these federal laws, the front line managers have to know these laws too, so they do not violate them and get the company and themselves into a lawsuit.

This article is not an insurance policy. All questions of insurance coverage are determined by your insurance policy. We are also not a law firm and we do not offer any legal advice.