The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that T.G.I .Fridays, a subsidiary of Minnesota-based Carlson, has agreed to change its leave policy to be in compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The move affects employees at its 272 company-owned locations. The company has also agreed to correct violations of the FMLA found during an investigation of one of its restaurants in Shreveport, La., and pay an employee $1,455 in back wages.

“Workers should not have to choose between their job and the family members who need their care,” said Laura Fortman, principal deputy administrator for the WHD. “Ensuring a work-life balance is the cornerstone of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which has been the law of the land for 20 years. It gives America’s workers the right to take unpaid, job-protected leave to care for themselves or a loved one. As we move into its third decade, we are more dedicated than ever to enforcing the law when necessary to protect workers, yet continue to offer assistance to those employers who need help to come into compliance.”

The agency’s investigation found that the company violated the FMLA by failing to reinstate the employee to the same or equivalent position, including pay, benefits and other terms of employment, and that the worker was not allowed to return to work immediately following FMLA-covered leave. The delay in allowing the employee to return to work caused the employee to lose three weeks of pay.

Additionally, the investigation found that the company’s FMLA policy and worker rights notification practices were not in keeping with the law. Specifically, the policy did not include information on the FMLA’s military family leave provisions, information on the right to take FMLA-covered leave on an intermittent or reduced schedule basis, and misstated the 12-month employment requirement for FMLA eligibility as being 12 continuous months.

The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12-month period for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Under certain circumstances, military family leave entitlements allow eligible employees up to 26 weeks of leave.  Employers are prohibited from interfering with, restraining or denying the exercise of (or the attempt to exercise) any FMLA right. Employers also are prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against an employee or prospective employee for having exercised or attempted to exercise any FMLA right.  For example, an employer may not use an employee’s request for or use of FMLA leave as a negative factor in employment actions such as hiring, promotions or disciplinary procedures.