FMLA Rights Cannot be Waived without Approval

August 1, 2005 ( - A US Department of Labor (DoL) regulation prevents employees from voluntarily waiving their rights under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) without approval from the DoL or a judge, an appeals court has ruled.

As a result of that finding, the US 4 th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision by US District Judge Malcolm Howard of the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina in the dispute between plaintiff Barbara Taylor and Progress Energy.

Appeals judges decided that Howard was wrong when he sided with Progress in ruling that Taylor could not proceed in her lawsuit demanding FMLA credit for time she took off from work to receive medical treatment because she had signed a waiver of her FMLA rights when Progress laid her off in 2001. Howard also ruled that a DoL regulation that “employees cannot waive, nor may employers induce employees to waive, their rights under the FMLA” made the Progress waiver she signed unenforceable.

“We disagree with the district court’s interpretation (of the DoL regulations),” wrote Circuit Judge M. Blane Michael for the appeals court. “The regulation’s plain language prohibits both the retrospective and prospective waiver or release of an employee’s FMLA rights.”

The appeals court ruling is  here .

More information about the FMLA is  here .