The U.S. Department of Labor announced Monday that Los Angeles World Airports, which operates LAX and Van Nuys Airport, made “sweeping changes” to its system for employees to request medical leave following a federal investigation that found long delays, invalid disciplinary actions and violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

According to federal officials, LAWA workers had to wait months for medical leave requests to be approved, and some were subjected to illegal disciplinary actions when they sought unpaid leave to care for family members or themselves.

LAWA officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

“Especially during a global pandemic, workers should not have to choose between their jobs and their health,” said U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division Assistant District Director Francisco Ocampo.

“The Family and Medical Leave Act allows for critically needed workplace flexibility precisely when employees need it the most,” he said. “This investigation has helped to improve substantially the working conditions of more than 4,000 workers. We will continue to educate employers and enforce the law to ensure worker protections and to level the playing field for all employers.”

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, employers must provide workers with notice of their eligibility for leave within five days of the employee’s initial request. Federal investigators found that LAWA employees’ family and medical leave requests receive five levels of administrative review before a review by human resources. Some requests were pending for months, according to the Department of Labor.

LAWA also relied on second opinions from an in-house physician, which the Department of Labor said was improper and caused workers to not take their needed and available leave.

The new LAWA employee leave request system was redesigned to provide workers with updates and approvals within 24 hours, federal officials said.

The Department of Labor also said that LAWA no longer routinely requires second opinions from health care providers, and it created a reference guide for leave specialists, scheduled joint training sessions with the Wage and Hour Division and removed adverse action against workers.

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