Be Wary Of FMLA Fraud

Posted July 5, 2019 by Mary McGinley

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave was put into place to help workers take care of themselves and their families in the case of catastrophic or serious medical need. Unfortunately, however, there will always be those who are tempted to take unfair advantage of a benefit.

According to an article appearing on the HR Dive website, a Union Pacific Railroad (UP) employee was fired after he appeared in a co-worker’s video which was posted to Facebook. The worker, who was supposed to be on FMLA leave, was shown on a fishing trip. A California district court said that in the case, Dunger v. Union Pacific Railroad, the company, was entirely justified in terminating the employee.

Previously, the worker had taken other FMLA leave days for medical reasons. When questioned about the video in which he says, “I’m not out here,” the employee tried to claim he didn’t recall whether it was him. He later admitted that it was. The worker was fired for dishonesty and for violating the company’s FMLA policy.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division encourages that employers and managers be trained on FMLA leave. Industry experts say that a leading driver of employment law violations. In a recent case in Massachusetts, an employee was accused of abusing FMLA leave found in favor of the worker. The jury ordered the employer to pay some $2 million to the fired employee because they had failed to investigate the circumstances in good faith and presumed wrongdoing.

It is far too easy for employers to become cynical. Jeff Nowak, attorney, and shareholder at Littler Mendelson P.C., suggests implementing call-in procedures and communicating with employees and managers before, during, and after FMLA leave. He also suggests showing concern by checking in on employees who are on FMLA leave to see how things are doing is a good way to help prevent abuses.