Employee legitimately fired while on FMLA leave

by on March 16, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

FMLA laws don’t protect incompetence.

This case began with an upsetting discovery while an employee was away on FMLA leave, adopting a child in Romania.

Candis Smith worked as an administrative assistant for a hospital’s fund-raising division. One of her duties was to mail a thank-you note and a receipt to hospital donors immediately after they made a donation.

Unacknowledged receipts

When another coworker was reviewing paperwork in Smith’s office, he found about 400 receipts worth more than $350,000 that had never been mailed to donors. One unacknowledged contribution of $136,000 came from a donor who’d complained two months earlier that he hadn’t received a receipt.

As soon as Smith returned from Romania, she was summoned to a meeting. There, she was confronted with the unacknowledged donations and fired. She sued, claiming she was fired in retaliation for taking FMLA leave.

She’d have been fired anyway

But the employer was persuasive in court. Smith’s failure to acknowledge donations harmed donor relations. And that failure occurred long before she took her leave. The court believed that she’d have been fired had she not taken leave. Her case was thrown out of court.

Remember: FMLA laws don’t protect poor performers from getting fired, as long as they aren’t fired because they took their FMLA leave. Just make sure you have the evidence to prove it.

Cite: Smith v. Memorial Hospital Corp., U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, No. 01-2821, 9/11/02.

Leave a Reply


Request a Free Demo

We'd love to show you how this industry-leading training system can help you develop your team. Please fill out this quick form or give us a call at 877-792-2172 to schedule your one-on-one demo with a Rapid Learning Specialist.