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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of South Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 28, 2015

Staples, Inc. and Staples Contract and Commercial, Inc. Settle Allegations that it violated the Family Medical Leave Act for $275,000

Contact Person: Beth Drake (803) 929-3000

COLUMBIA, South Carolina ----  United States Attorney Bill Nettles announced today that the United States Attorney's Office for the District of South Carolina, working alongside the United States Department of Labor, settled with Staples, Inc. and Staples Contract and Commercial, Inc. (collectively, “Staples”) for $275,000 amid allegations that it violated the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.SC. §§ 2601, et seq. (“FMLA”).  The United States contended that Staples, which owns a nation-wide chain of office supply stores, failed to provide notice of employees’ rights under the FMLA, which prevented employee Jeffrey Angstadt from making educated decisions about requesting leave when his wife was diagnosed with cancer and initiated chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  Specifically, the United States contended that:

  1. In September 2010, Mr. Angstadt provided notice to Staples of his need to take leave to care for his ailing wife, which qualified as leave under the FMLA.
  2. Although Mr. Angstadt was entitled to FMLA leave, and Staples was obligated to provide FMLA leave if requested, Staples did not provide Mr. Angstadt notice of his rights and responsibilities under the FMLA; and Mr. Angstadt was not aware of his rights. Mr. Angstadt’s supervisors were aware of his wife’s condition.
  3. Between September 2010 and January 2012, Mr. Angstadt took leave intermittently to care for his wife, and also worked remotely in an attempt to balance his job obligations with the need to care for his wife.
  4. As a result of Staples’ failure to provide notice to Mr. Angstadt’s of his rights under the FMLA, he was unlawfully placed on a Performance Improvement Plan and terminated.  Mr. Angstadt was unemployed for a period of time after being terminated.

As part of the Government’s settlement with Staples, Mr. Angstadt will receive $275,000, which consists of front pay, back pay, lost benefits, and liquidated damages.  Staples has agreed to promote compliance with the FMLA by providing training to it Human Resources and managerial personnel regarding FMLA notice and eligibility requirements, investigating and immediately remediating any complaint or potential violation of the FMLA, and posting FMLA enforcement posters at conspicuous places at Staples’ places of employment.

 “The very purpose of the Family Medical Leave Act is to prevent the unfortunate fate of Mr. Angstadt, whose wife passed away last year,” said Mr. Nettles.  “The protections afforded by the FMLA are absolutely critical when an employee is faced with the need to care for himself or a family member; and this office will go to great lengths to ensure its enforcement.”

If you suspect violation of the FMLA, please report it by phone at 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243), TTY: 1-877-889-5627, Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Updated May 28, 2015