An employee who has been wronged after taking or requesting FMLA leave should know their rights under FMLA regulations. Here are two cases in which the employees knew what was wrong, and won the lawsuits they filed to fix it.
Unable to work? Employee could still sue for retaliation under FMLA regulations
It seems as though the courts are always figuring out new nuances of FMLA regulations, and we will keep bringing them to you as you work to keep abreast of this complex law.
The latest wrinkle comes from Maine. A worker was fired after the company put surveillance on him during a period of FMLA leave. He was on leave for what he said were disabling migraine headaches. The surveillance revealed that the worker had gone to the gym and the video store on days he was supposed to be sick.
He sued his firm, claiming the company interfered with his right to take FMLA leave and retaliated against him after he took the leave.
The court threw out the interference claim, saying it was an easy call. Among other things, the employee admitted his migraines were so bad he wouldn’t have been able to return to work until well after his leave expired. FMLA regulations say that employers do not have to reinstate employees after family medical leave if they can’t do essential job functions.
On the retaliation issue, though, the court came to a less obvious conclusion: The employee’s inability to return to work did not kill his retaliation claim.
The court said employees who could not work after FMLA leave might still be able to prove the employer deprived them of salary or benefits between the date of their wrongful termination and the date that their leave expired. Or they might be eligible for reinstatement once they were able to work again.
Cite: Colburn v. Parker Hannifin, No. 05-1308, 1st Cir., 11/18/05.
Interference with parental leaves against FMLA regulations?
The city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, received a rap on the knuckles for interfering with two female employees’ parental family medical leaves and violating FMLA regulations.
A supervisor forced the two women to use sick days in their leaves instead of compensatory time, as they wanted and asked for. The supervisor said this was policy, but the women pointed out that four men had been allowed to use comp time in their parental leaves. The city argued that the supervisor did not know this at the time. She later tried to alter the men’s records to reflect the policy.
No matter, the court said. It refused to throw out the women’s suit, giving them a chance to show the city was being disingenuous.
Cite: Orr v. City of Albuquerque, No. 03-2287, 10th Cir.
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