Are these violations of the Family Medical Leave Act?
I was an employee for a major phone company until March of 2014, when I felt compelled to quit after being advised to do so from a manager, who asked to remain unnamed. In 2012, I told a fellow employee I felt anguish from the prior week, when I felt depressed and had had suicidal thoughts of driving into oncoming traffic.
I was crying from my mental anguish from being in college full time, with a full time stressful job at a call center (even though I still was meeting all of my performance metrics), as well as having difficulty coping with the demands of being a single mother.
The employee I spoke with went and told a supervisor, who came to me, and although I suggested that I wanted to drive myself to the nearest mental health facility, the manager insisted on me waiting, and soon thereafter the police and ambulance personnel showed up and insisted on taking me there.
As I rode in the back of the police car from my place of employment, depressed, humiliated, and concerned, I was not even aware I was being involuntarily committed by my employer... until I wanted to leave the hospital and my request was refused.
According to the FMLA policy, my claim was denied because I was involuntarily committed for 3 days instead of 4, resulting in the depletion of 3 eight hour work days of vacation time. With only 56 hours of personal time and 80 hours of vacation time, I had already used a lot of my vacation earlier in the year.
I had to work under extreme pressure when I was released from the hospital, yet my performance continued to meet performance metrics. I began to see a therapist and we began to talk about my past and present emotions, and she was aware of the mental anguish my employer had caused me by making this hurried decision of casting me away to a mental hospital.
Although I was previously diagnosed with depression in 2005, and had not been taking any medication or seeing a professional for depression for 5 years, my depressive episodes escalated as a result of this poor management discretion.
After I returned under medication, while still seeing my therapist and psychiatrist more frequently, I had death in my family. I asked another manager if bereavement was covered for aunts, as I was aware that the impact of her death was triggering my depression as well.
The manager advised me to put in the FMLA claim, and that he would be "notating my blue folder file" that I had asked about bereavement first, before asking about FMLA (even though FMLA is not supposed to be noted in employee files).
After informing my psychiatrist and therapist of this loss, as we continued with our appointments, I contacted the Department of Labor and opened up an investigation. After that, I did not hear anything else about the situation, although I felt extremely uncomfortable at work because I did not feel my medical condition was being kept confidential as HIPAA laws require.
Afterwards, I began having personal issues with feeling depressed at times and called out of work a lot, and had it coded as FMLA. Later we had a "director's meeting" which the entire call center attended, of which a manager joked about psychological illnesses and discussed attendance problems.
During our meeting she said that people were calling out but "Job from the Bible did not have that many illnesses". I had recently opened up a blog to help me with expressing my emotions called "divine woman" that shared my borderline personality disorder and discussed biblical affairs.
From a friend of mine who worked the earlier shift, she informed me that the director had used this same religiously joking statement when talking to the earlier shift during their director's meeting. After this instance, I began to miss work more frequently because I felt mocked and publicly ridiculed, although I was still seeing my therapist and taking my medications.
I made several calls to the mental hospital's call center to complain. At times I had to drive down the street from my job to call them because I felt so sad and depressed while working. One day, while I was home due to my recently prescribed autoimmune disease, an operations manager called me to let me know she was placing me on corrective action because I had missed so much work.
Now that I am not working for Verizon anymore, I feel much better mentally, however I was not eligible for Unemployment insurance due to me quitting (I was confidentially advised to do so by a manager).
All these things considered, although I believe that my employer not only made my depression and anxiety symptoms worse, they indirectly caused me to feel uncomfortable in my work environment and then advised me to quit to prevent paying out unemployment insurance.
I would like a 2nd opinion before I go through all of the measures of subpoena for information and phone records that support my claims. I realize they are a huge business and I want to make sure that these things I have mentioned are all examples of employment discrimination due to medical conditions covered by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Any perspective or helpful information you could give would be appreciated. Thank you.
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ANSWER for "Are these violations of the Family Medical Leave Act?":
Tamika (Charlotte, NC):
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) grants certain employees up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave in a 12 month period for several reasons. According to the United States Department of Labor, the reason applicable to you is ..."when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition."
For more information about the FMLA, go to the US Department of Labor website.
If you are convinced your employer violated your rights under the FMLA, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Dept of Labor at their website. Unfortunately, you can not subpoena any records until and unless you file a lawsuit. A subpoena is effectively a court order. You can't obtain a court order without the matter in controversy first being within the court's jurisdiction.
As an individual, you aren't permitted to seek compensation for your employer's alleged violation of the FMLA. Your complaint will be acknowledged and investigated. You will have to wait to hear from someone at the U.S. Department of Labor. At that time, you will be able to add or modify the basis of your complaint. Hopefully, the matter will be resolved in your favor.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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