Staples to pay former Columbia, SC employee $275,000 for FMLA violation

Thursday, May 28, 2015
Staples, Inc. and Staples Contract and Commercial, Inc. Settle Allegations that it violated the Family Medical Leave Act for $275,000

sleazy_staples_2COLUMBIA, South Carolina—-  United States Attorney Bill Nettles announced today that the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina, working alongside the United States Department of Labor, settled with Staples, Inc. and Staples Contract and Commercial, Inc. (collectively, “Staples”) for $275,000 amid allegations that it violated the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.SC. §§ 2601, et seq. (“FMLA”).  The United States contended that Staples, which owns a nation-wide chain of office supply stores, failed to provide notice of employees’ rights under the FMLA, which prevented employee Jeffrey Angstadt from making educated decisions about requesting leave when his wife was diagnosed with cancer and initiated chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  Specifically, the United States contended that:

  1. In September 2010, Mr. Angstadt provided notice to Staples of his need to take leave to care for his ailing wife, which qualified as leave under the FMLA.
  2. Although Mr. Angstadt was entitled to FMLA leave, and Staples was obligated to provide FMLA leave if requested, Staples did not provide Mr. Angstadt notice of his rights and responsibilities under the FMLA; and Mr. Angstadt was not aware of his rights. Mr. Angstadt’s supervisors were aware of his wife’s condition.
  3. Between September 2010 and January 2012, Mr. Angstadt took leave intermittently to care for his wife, and also worked remotely in an attempt to balance his job obligations with the need to care for his wife.
  4. As a result of Staples’ failure to provide notice to Mr. Angstadt’s of his rights under the FMLA, he was unlawfully placed on a Performance Improvement Plan and terminated.  Mr. Angstadt was unemployed for a period of time after being terminated.

As part of the Government’s settlement with Staples, Mr. Angstadt will receive $275,000, which consists of front pay, back pay, lost benefits, and liquidated damages.  Staples has agreed to promote compliance with the FMLA by providing training to it Human Resources and managerial personnel regarding FMLA notice and eligibility requirements, investigating and immediately remediating any complaint or potential violation of the FMLA, and posting FMLA enforcement posters at conspicuous places at Staples’ places of employment.

“The very purpose of the Family Medical Leave Act is to prevent the unfortunate fate of Mr. Angstadt, whose wife passed away last year,” said Mr. Nettles.  “The protections afforded by the FMLA are absolutely critical when an employee is faced with the need to care for himself or a family member; and this office will go to great lengths to ensure its enforcement.”

If you suspect violation of the FMLA, please report it by phone at 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243), TTY: 1-877-889-5627, Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Source: Staples, Inc. and Staples Contract and Commercial, Inc. Settle Allegations that it violated the Family Medical Leave Act for $275,000 | USAO-SC | Department of Justice

4 thoughts on “Staples to pay former Columbia, SC employee $275,000 for FMLA violation

  1. Union and NAME of Local/Branch
    Philadelphia, PA Area Local #89 / Retiree Chapter
    Office held, if any
    Member / Rogue Rank and File Activist and Advocate

    It is somewhat interesting to compare the penalty treatment to the Agency (USPS) of two different acts:

    Violations of the OSHA regs. is reckoned to be aggregating and cumulative nationwide.

    That is: chronologically – e.g., violation # 1 in Knoxville, Tennessee is added for penalty purposes to the next violation, say, in Los Angeles, California, and so on, each time increasing the fine to agency HQ.

    No such thing with agency violations of the FMLA. Each incident dead ends. Each location is isolated. Agency HQ is not fined. There is no cost to the agency for repeated violations.
    Each time – the wheel has to be reinvented.

    The agency takes violations of OSHA very seriously. It just shrugs off FMLA violations.

  2. Union and NAME of Local/Branch
    Philadelphia Local
    Office held, if any

    The United States Postal Service (USPS) violates the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as a MATTER OF ROUTINE but we don’t see these kind of settlements. Why? Staples is NOT UNIONIZED and employees must fend for themselves. The postal service (USPS) employees are represented by various unions including the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) but often the contract and federal law are NOT enforced at WORKING FLOOR LEVEL by the unions and/or the federal govenmental Department of Labor (DOL) and/or Equal Employment Opportunity Commision (EEOC) instrumentalities. As a former postal worker and APWU member I would really appreciate that the present president of the APWU please take note (Mr Mark Dimondstein).

    The most egregious violations against the employees manifest at the WORKING FLOOR LEVEL where the unions are too much concerned with somewhat “esoteric” issues. It’s at the WORKING FLOOR LEVEL that the sh*t really hits the fan.

    I know there are many issues and challenges pressing workers and the few remaining unions in the United States today but when a NON-UNIONIZED employee reaches this level of success against an intractable employer (Staples) we must question more. As a point of reference, currently, the postal unions are fending “back door” privatization of the postal service by “pushing back” against Staples providing postal services (USPS) at it’s stores by lowly paid non-union Staples employees.

  3. Union and NAME of Local/Branch
    AFGE Florida Local 558
    Office held, if any

    Its so hypocritical that the government enforces FMLA on everyone except itself. At the TSA, anyone filing for intermittent FMLA is fired on fitness-for-duty grounds and the TSA uses the employee’s own FMLA forms as evidence. It’s sickening, the dual standard.

  4. Union and NAME of Local/Branch
    APWU Philadelphia, PA Area Local #89 - Retiree Chapter
    Office held, if any
    Member / Rogue Rank and File Activist and Advocate

    Amazing that ONE low-paid non-union Staples employee was able to get this settlement (considering what is involved in a federal lawsuit), yet the USPS continues to violate FMLA every day. In my opinion, all postal unions at HQ levels, need to direct their HQ legal counsel to enforcing/ensuring USPS compliance to the FMLA and assisting employees in lawsuits who have had their federal rights violated. The FMLA has been around for 20+ years now. Isn’t it about time we make the USPS pay up for their continuous incompetence, malfeasance and criminal failure in adhering to the FMLA? Seems sometimes the unions put a lot of focus/money on “far away” issues while immediate concerns of the workplace are overlooked.

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