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Even hospitals engage in FMLA harassment and retaliatory firings

When a licensed vocational nurse with five children took rightful leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for her chronically ill children, she was subjected harsh retaliation and intimidation by the hospital she worked for. Ultimately, she was fired, allegedly for a rules infraction. She believes she was wrongfully terminated in a blatant example of FMLA retaliation.

As we discussed in our last post, the FMLA guarantees employees legal job protection when they take needed leave to care for their own health and that of their families. Unfortunately, many employers find the Family and Medical Leave Act inconvenient.

The 32-year-old married mother of five had worked for Kaiser Permanente Medical Centers in California since 2010. In May 2011, she transferred between hospitals and immediately began experiencing apparent FMLA retaliation when she took time off to care for her three-year-old with diabetes and her one-year-old with asthma. Her husband suffers from a disability, and the family was even getting their medical care at the hospital she worked for.

Nevertheless, her supervisor demanded she bring in doctors’ notes to prove her leave requests were legitimate. She was also told that “people” were on the lookout for certain patterns in her leave requests -- requests for the FMLA leave she was entitled to by law.

Despite having the FMLA requests certified, she claims, the supervisor routinely challenged their legitimacy, chided her for needing them, and criticized her disabled husband for not taking on the children’s care.

The supervisor also allegedly denied the nurse’s FMLA leave requests, even those made far in advance, based on “staffing issues.” When those occasions came up, the nurse was told that if she took the leave anyway she would be fired for insubordination.

In May of last year, one of her children’s illnesses became extremely severe and she herself had to undergo an emergency appendectomy. Nevertheless, the nurse alleges, the supervisor continued her campaign of harassment and even denied her leave request for post-surgical recovery time.

When she complained to the nurse’s union, she was fired for a “time card violation.”

We simply don’t have enough information to know how true these particular allegations may be, but the fact is, employers retaliate against workers who take FMLA leave or make workers’ compensation claims all the time. It needs to stop.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Mom Says Kaiser Fired Her for Caring for Kids,” Philip A. Janquart, June 5, 2013

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