Alaska energy company agrees to pay $43,000 in back wages, resolving US Labor Department lawsuit over FMLA violations
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The U.S. Department of Labor and ASRC Energy Services Alaska Inc. have agreed to a consent judgment in federal court that will result in the payment of $43,000 in back wages for an employee who was allegedly terminated in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act. The judgment also permanently enjoins the defendants from future violations of the FMLA.
The judgment and order resolve a lawsuit filed by the department in the U.S. District Court of the District of Alaska after an investigation by the Seattle District Office of the department’s Wage and Hour Division. The investigation found that the employee was terminated while he was on leave for a serious health condition, in violation of the FMLA.
“For more than two decades, the FMLA’s job-protected leave entitlements have served as a critical safety net for our nation’s workers and families. This law continues to help achieve a healthy, productive balance between the demands of work and family life,” said Donna Hart, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Seattle District Office. “This judgment demonstrates the department’s commitment to ensuring employees receive all of the protections to which they are entitled under the FMLA, and to helping employers understand and comply with the law.”
ASRC Energy Services Alaska is an oil and gas support services company that provides permitting, maintenance, construction, engineering and fabrication functions for the energy industry in Alaska and throughout the U.S. The company has operations in remote locations, such as North Slope, Alaska, and commonly assigns employees to these locations on rotational schedules, with periods of several weeks of continuous work followed by weeks of time off.
The division found that the employer incorrectly counted against the employee’s FMLA leave entitlement weeks that he was not scheduled to be at work and terminated him for exceeding the approved amount of leave. If an employee is not scheduled to report for work, that time period is not leave and, therefore, may not count against the employee’s 12-week FMLA leave entitlement. Investigators determined that the employer failed to comply with this requirement.
ASRC Energy Services voluntarily reinstated the affected employee to his former position. In addition to the payment of back wages, ASRC Energy Services has agreed to comply with the FMLA going forward and to ensure it will not include rest and relaxation periods in calculating the 12-week entitlement to leave under the FMLA for rotational workers.
The FMLA allows an eligible employee to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave to bond with a newborn, newly adopted or newly placed child, for their own serious health condition, or to care for a seriously ill child, spouse or parent, without fear of losing their job and with continuation of health care coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. FMLA leave may also be taken for specified reasons related to certain military deployments and up to 26 workweeks of leave to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness. An employer is prohibited from interfering with, restraining, or denying the exercise of, or the attempt to exercise, an FMLA right. Prohibited conduct includes refusal to authorize FMLA leave for an eligible employee.
For more information on the FMLA, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243), its Seattle district office at 206-398-8039 or its Anchorage field office at 907-271-2867. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.