Following is an excerpt:
The leave policy of TGI Fridays violates the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the popular restaurant chain has agreed to change its company-wide policy and pay one employee back wages, according to the Department of Labor (DOL).
The DOL announced the company's agreement on Aug. 7, following an investigation of a TGI Fridays restaurant in Shreveport, La. There, an employee took FMLA-covered leave but the company didn't reinstate the employee to the same or equivalent position, as required by the law.
"If violations cannot be resolved, the Department of Labor may bring an action in court to compel compliance," explains Anna Cohen, an employment lawyer with Epstein Becker Green in New York. "An employee may also file a private action against an employer for violations."
In this case, it appears that while the initial complaint was likely made by the employee who was denied immediate reinstatement after taking protected leave, the DOL's investigation uncovered problems with the way the restaurant was notifying its employees of their rights under the FMLA.
Under the FMLA, according to Cohen, employers must:
- post, in conspicuous places, a notice explaining the Act's provisions and provide information concerning the procedures for filing complaints with the WHD
- include the notice in employee handbooks or other written guidance to employees when they are hired
- notify employees of their eligibility to take FMLA leave within five business days once a request is made
- explain to employees taking leave their rights and responsibilities including their specific expectations and obligations and any consequences of failing to meet them
- notify employees in writing whether or not the leave will actually be counted as FMLA leave
"As a general rule, it is important for employers to ensure that their FMLA policies and procedures are in compliance with the law," Cohen points out.