A prominent chef who was once featured on a Food Network cooking competition show is being sued for alleged violations of the Family Medical Leave Act by a former chef at one of his restaurants. The man who filed the lawsuit says that when his wife suffered from a sudden stroke and he needed time off, his boss took a variety of actions that violated the man’s right under the Family Medical Leave Act to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave without losing his job.
Just a few days after the man’s wife suffered from the stroke, his boss was already asking him for a firm date when he could return to work. Without knowing the full extent of the situation and how he would proceed with his wife’s medical wishes and caring for their children, he said he would have to reassess in about two weeks. That was apparently too long to wait and he man was fired, even though he had been approved for job-protected leave under FMLA by a human resources director.
This case is a clear example of what employers cannot do when a medical emergency arises for an employee. The Family Medical Leave Act is designed specifically to address these types of situations and to ensure that workers are able to take the time they need to care for a family member. It is very common in these situations for employees not to know right away when they will be able to return, so good communication is important to ensuring that there are no misunderstandings.
Source: New York Post, "'Chopped' winner fired cook for taking care of dying wife: lawsuit," Julia Marsh, April 7, 2014