Alabama workers fired over medical leave to receive $438,625 in back pay and penalties from Mercedes-Benz

The U.S. Department of Labor has announced that it has successfully recovered $438,625 in back wages and penalties for two former employees at Mercedes-Benz in Alabama. According to the agency, the workers’ rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act were violated.

Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc. was found to have violated the law by the Wage and Hour Division of the department. The division discovered that the company wrongfully terminated two production workers who had requested to take leave protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Two employees from the department requested leave for different reasons. One employee needed the leave to take care of a family member with a qualifying health condition, while the other employee needed it for their own serious health condition.

According to the Department of Labor (DOL), Mercedes punished its employees and withheld monthly attendance bonuses due to their absences, resulting in their termination based on the company’s point system. However, the DOL stated that the employees’ leave was protected in both instances.

According to a spokesperson from Mercedes-Benz, MBUSI willingly and completely cooperated with the investigation. However, they have denied any violation of the FMLA.

According to a spokesperson, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. (MBUSI) is dedicated to ensuring compliance with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and devotes significant resources to this endeavor. MBUSI goes above and beyond the FMLA requirements by offering its team members additional leave benefits, such as a short-term disability program that provides up to six months of paid leave.

MBUSI stated that they do not believe the two team members were wrongfully discharged and that their actions were taken in good faith to comply with the FMLA. However, they voluntarily cooperated with the DOL and resolved the matter to avoid the future costs and expenses of litigation and to prevent further disruption.

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Investigators found that Mercedes-Benz failed to do the following:

    • Inform employees that they may be eligible for FMLA leave within five business days of learning their requests could qualify.
    • Reinstate the workers to the same or equivalent positions.
    • Accurately record, maintain and calculate the amount of leave taken.
    • Provide notice of FMLA rights and responsibilities, as required by law.
    • Designate leave as FMLA-qualifying when appropriate.

The former employees not only received $219,312 in recovered pay but also received an additional $219,312 in liquidated damages.

According to Kenneth Stripling, the District Director of the Wage and Hour Division, employers are not allowed to deny eligible workers their legal entitlement to family and medical leave. It is unacceptable for employers to put workers in a position where they have to choose between retaining their jobs and taking care of themselves or their families. Stripling emphasizes that federal law provides important workplace flexibilities precisely when employees need them the most. The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to protecting workers’ rights and will take all necessary actions to address any violations of these rights.

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