You wouldn’t know it by how railroads treat it, but the FMLA is a remedial statute that must be broadly construed to effectuate its humanitarian purpose. And the purpose of the FMLA is "to entitle employees to take reasonable leave for medical reasons," and to help working men and women "balance the demands of the work place with the needs of families." 29 U.S.C. § 2601(b)(1) and (2). The FMLA is about family values, about allowing workers to be responsible spouses and parents. So when a worker is denied his FMLA rights, it hurts his entire family.
Even though railroads may try to treat the FMLA as if it were a hyper-technical law with rigid rules, courts and juries do not. So the bottom line is, do not be cowed by the 3D campaign of railroads against the FMLA. 3D is shorthand for "delay, deny, discourage." Even though the FMLA is supposed to be applied in a liberal manner, railroads delay by bouncing back adequate doctor certificates. Then they deny FMLA applications for bogus reasons and hope the worker doesn’t challenge them. The ultimate goal of the 3D campaign is to discourage workers from even trying to apply for FMLA leave in the first place. Unless workers stand up to the railroads’ illegal 3D behavior, the remedial purpose of the FMLA will be defeated.
The good news is, Congress allows workers whose FMLA rights have been delayed or denied to immediately file suit in federal court so judges and juries can hold employers accountable. The remedies under the FMLA include the voiding of any discrimination or discipline, double damages for lost wages and benefits, and attorney fees and costs. And a worker can file suit not only on behalf of himself but also on behalf of all his fellow workers in order to stop the railroad from continuing to violate the FMLA. So don’t be afraid to stand up and fight for your FMLA rights–by stopping the railroad from violating the FMLA you are helping your family and the families of all your co-workers. For more information on the FMLA, go to the Department of Labor’s website www.dol.gov/esa/whd/fmla/