ORLANDO, FL – The federal Family and Medical Leave Act protects workers from being forced by their employers to choose between their health or their job, so when a regional railroad fired an engineer who sought protected leave, the U.S. Department of Labor investigated.

Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found Florida East Coast Railway LLC terminated a yard engineer in Jacksonville illegally after they requested federally protected leave for a qualifying health condition. After the request, the division learned the railway ordered a fit-for-duty medical examination without providing the employee a required 30-day notice. The employer then used information from the exam to reject the worker’s original employment application retroactively after nearly eight years of employment. Investigators determined the railway based its rejection on a company policy used in the past only to terminate employees during their first 120 days of employment.

The division determined Florida East Coast Railway’s retaliation and termination violated the worker’s rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act and recovered $25,000 in back wages for the engineer.

“Federal law protects a worker’s right to deal with their health concerns without fear of losing their job or facing their employer’s retaliation,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Wildalí De Jesús in Orlando, Florida. “Our investigation found Florida East Coast Railway LLC violated this employee’s rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the employer has been held accountable for their illegal actions.”

In fiscal year 2022, the Wage and Hour Division investigated 780 FMLA complaints and recovered more than $870,000 in back wages for violations ranked most significant.

Grupo México Transportes, one of Mexico’s largest railroads, acquired Florida East Coast Railway LLC in 2017. The railway owns and operates 351-miles of mainline track from Jacksonville to Miami with about 640 employees. The company supports shipments to Port Miami, Port Everglades and the Port of Palm Beach. Standard Oil co-founders Henry Flagler and John D. Rockefeller established the railroad in 1885.

Learn more about the FMLA and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, including an FMLA Compliance Assistance Toolkit, or contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).

As part of its ongoing efforts to empower workers to use FMLA-protected leave, the department’s Wage and Hour Division has launched a webpage and updated resources to help workers seeking to take time off from work to care for a family member. The site includes information about talking to your employer about taking FMLA leave, updated fact sheets on using FMLA and other resources for family caregivers to navigate their responsibilities.

Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions, regardless of where they are from, and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages. Learn more about Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.

Read more about how the Wage and Hour Division answered the call to protect another worker’s FMLA rights.

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