CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — An employee of Nueces Electrical Co-op in Corpus Christi has received $46,920 in back wages and damages after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found the company in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
“The FMLA protects eligible workers from having to choose between work and family care or personal medical leave needs,” said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division for the Southwest. “When employees are unlawfully denied leave and their livelihoods put at risk, the potential for harm is great.”
The division’s McAllen District Office found that the employer, a company that provides electrical services to Corpus Christi and surrounding areas, wrongfully advised the employee to retire or face termination of employment for needing leave for an FMLA-qualifying health condition. The employer’s actions forced the employee, who was entitled to receive FMLA job-protected leave, to cash out a 401(k) savings plan, which incurred significant penalties. The employee suffered wage losses, resulting in loan defaults and an inability to pay essential bills.
In addition to the monetary damages, the company neglected to provide proper FMLA notice to the employee. Under the FMLA, a covered employer must notify eligible employees of their FMLA rights and responsibilities and permit employees to take leave as outlined in the FMLA.
Nueces Electrical Co-op has agreed to future compliance with the FMLA and instituted new policies to prevent future violations.
The FMLA allows an eligible employee to take unpaid leave to bond with a newborn, newly adopted or placed child, for their own serious health condition, or to care for a seriously ill child, spouse or parent, without fear of losing their job and with continuation of health care coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. FMLA leave may also be taken for specified reasons related to certain military deployments and to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness. An employer is prohibited from interfering with, restraining, or denying the exercise of, or the attempt to exercise, an FMLA right. Prohibited conduct includes refusal to authorize FMLA leave for an eligible employee.