July 31, 2001
Feds Sue University Over FMLA
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The U.S. Department of Labor has sued William Paterson University, accusing the New Jersey institution of violating federal law by refusing to allow an anthropology professor to return to work after taking a medical leave.
The university did not inform the professor, Anita Barrow, of her rights when she requested a leave in 1999, according to the lawsuit, believed to be the first time the department has sued a school over Family and Medical Leave Act regulations.
According to the Associated Press, the lawsuit and Labor Department officials give this account of events:
On July 1, 1999, Barrow requested a medical leave to begin July 6 "for the purpose of obtaining treatment for a serious health condition."
The university put Barrow on sick leave instead of FMLA, then refused to let Barrow return to work in August 1999 until she underwent a psychiatric evaluation.
Barrow went for an evaluation, but the university was not satisfied with it. She has not returned to work.
The Labor Department is seeking back wages and benefits with interest, Barrow's reinstatement, and promotion.
The university should have explained to Barrow the difference between sick leave and the leave available under the Family and Medical Leave Act, , said Sandra Steiner, an investigator in the department's wage and hour division.
"The law is quite clear in that even if she did not request it, they were supposed to advise her of her rights," Steiner said.
William Paterson University spokesman Stuart Goldstein said he had not received a copy of the lawsuit, filed on July 12.
FMLA, which became law in 1993, requires employers with 50 or more workers to grant up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a medical emergency or the arrival of a baby, then offer the workers their jobs back.
To view the Associated Press story, click here