“How can I get some needed relief from FMLA-retaliation?”

Question: Alan, I have breast cancer. I am presently out on an approved federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) leave of absence for the permitted 12 weeks. Before I went out on this FMLA leave of absence, I was always a top performer.

For the past six weeks or so, my boss has done a series of things that have made me uncomfortable. As examples, he has threatened my job if I don’t return early, and told me that, despite the law, there is no guarantee I will have my job back. He was so mean, I cried.

Our company’s Human Resources department has a Leave of Absence desk; my boss actually got into a fight with them because of the way he has treated me. It has gotten so bad that the Vice President of Human Resources directed that I don’t speak with my boss at all, but only to her. I told the VP of Human Resources that I was frightened about how my boss would treat me, especially now that he knows I have complained about him. Since then, no one has called me back.

I’ve told Human Resources that I will not feel comfortable working with my boss when I return,  because of how he has treated me. He seems “protected” because he is with the company for 20 years, and knows a lot of senior managers. What can I do?

Ada, Oklahoma

Answer: Kellie, first may I say that it is my prayer that your breast cancer will go into remission, and that you will soon regain your health completely.

As to you, your employer and your FMLA legal rights, I strongly suggest you file a FMLA Complaint about how you have been treated with the federal agency that is there to help taxpayers like you on matters of FMLA: the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor. And, at the same time, I strongly suggest you send a copy of your FMLA Complaint to the President of the company you work for, and the Head of Human Resources at your company.

Your FMLA Complaint should lay out the facts as you have done for me, and even a bit more detailed, if possible. When it comes to such things it is better to give more information and detail than less. Do not be afraid to do so: not only is it your legal right, but it should only give you more protection from such retaliatory behavior as you have described.

The US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division will investigate your complaint. While they are generally quite responsive, I suggest you mention your breast cancer, and ask that the investigation of your Complaint be expedited. Send your FMLA Complaint to both of these two places, by Federal Express, UPS Overnight Service, or U.S. Express Mail:

U.S. Department of Labor                              
Wage and Hour Division                                 
FMLA Complaints                                              
Attn: Glynda Smith, District Director       
Old Post Office Building – Rm. 321             
215 Dean A. McGee                                           
Oklahoma City, OK 73102-3475               
(405) 231-4158                                                   
U.S. Department of Labor
Wage and Hour Division
FMLA Complaints
Ray Blanchard, Asst. District Director
1645 South 101 East Avenue
Suite 170
Tulsa, OK 74128
(918) 581-6303

As noted above, send a copy to your employer’s President and Head of Human Resources.

Of course, you might also consider obtaining the legal advice of a qualified employment attorney in your area.

Kellie, I really do believe this is what would likely help you the most in your circumstances. While I am not licensed to practice law in Oklahoma, as to your federal FMLA rights, this is what I have seen help my clients the most. First, it will surely get the attention of your employer. Second, it may provide you with the help of the government, without cost. Most of all, I hope and expect it will reduce the anxiety and stress you are experiencing from this situation, which I am sure can only help your body gather the strength, stamina and serenity you need to overcome your breast cancer.

As noted above, I will say a prayer for you. I hope that others who read this blog will do so, as well. We are all in this together.

My sincerest Best to you.

Al Sklover

©  2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

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