FMLA law does not allow employees to waive claims

by on January 26, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Employees can’t relinquish FMLA eligibility, past or future

We’ve recounted how DOL refused to assist employers with sticky intermittent leave problems. But to give DOL its due, it recently tried to help out on another issue in FMLA law– and got shot down by the courts.

A federal appeals court said that, contrary to DOL’s view, an employee couldn’t legally waive an FMLA claim she’d made against her North Carolina employer.


DOL’s interpretation was that FMLA laws prohibit employees from signing general waivers of future FMLA rights – when they’re hired, for instance.

But, DOL claimed, employees could sign away FMLA claims they’d already made. This would have opened the door for employers to settle FMLA cases out of court, if they desired.

Not so fast, the appeals court said.

FMLA laws don’t make any important distinction between past and future rights or claims, the court said. Unlike discrimination laws, which allow out-of-court settlements, the Family and Medical Leave Act is a labor standards law.

Allowing employers to modify the standards through individual negotiations with employees, unsupervised by a court or DOL, would violate Congress’s intent in passing the FMLA laws, the court concluded.



This decision may not be the last word. Another federal appeals court came to a different conclusion a couple of years back.

But to be safe for now, you’re probably better off not including waivers of any FMLA claims in settlements or severance packages you may offer employees.

Cite: Taylor v. Progress Energy, No. 04-1525, 4th Cir., 7/3/07.

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