Fort Smith & Fayetteville Hospitals Face Labor Dept. Violations
FORT SMITH (KFSM) — An investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor found several hospitals in Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas were asking their employees “a litany of unnecessary and illegal questions” before they were able to get leave for their own health conditions or to care for a family member.
The Labor Department investigation started at Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith. Federal investigators found the facility violated the Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires employees to provide enough information so their employers knows their need for leave is due to an FMLA-qualifying condition. However, the Labor Department found Mercy was requiring their employees to answer personal questions beyond the scope of what is allowed by law. The forms provided by the hospital requested health information outside the scope of the illness related to the leave request and the names of prescribed medications.
The Labor Department investigation also found FMLA violations at Washington Regional Medical Center and HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Fort Smith. In some instances all three hospitals failed to meet the notification requirements of the FMLA, which require employers to notify employees of their eligibility for protected leave within five business days of the first leave request.
Investigators found the violations potentially affected about 40,000 workers at Mercy Health, 2,177 at Washington Regional and 173 at HealthSouth.
The FMLA provides eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave due to their own or a family member’s serious health condition with continuation of health care coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.
Following the Labor Department investigation hospital workers at Mercy Health System and affiliated locations around the country will no longer be required to answer intrusive questions.
Mercy released the following statement regarding the investigation:
“We cooperated with the Department of Labor and are in the process of changing our family and medical leave questionnaire. It is important to note that only two questions are being clarified and we are aware of no complaints about this issue prior to the Department of Labor news release.”