Do FMLA regulations let you fire someone just returning from FMLA leave?

by on March 17, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Its no problem if you were going to fire him before FMLA leave

An employer planned to fire a worker, but hesitated just long enough for the person to announce he was taking FMLA leave. He was dismissed the day he returned and sued, claiming the company violated FMLA regulations. This case underscores the employer’s FMLA rights.

Dismissal was proper under FMLA regulations

Gabriel Ahmarani worked as a plant manager at a manufacturing operation. A big part of his job was his daily meetings with the company’s president and its controller. From early in Ahmarani’s employment the two executives were displeased with the plant manager’s communication style and attitude.

The company president wanted to fire Ahmarani, but the controller persuaded him to give Ahmarani another chance. And another. Finally, both execs agreed that Ahmarani had to go. They went to HR with their decision, documenting their discussions about Ahmarani’s employment and the actions they took to dismiss him. But before they could pull the trigger, Ahmarani took leave.

In court, the documents made it easy for the company to prove that the decision to terminate was reached before Ahmarani announced his FMLA leave.

In its decision, the court noted that in FMLA regulations any employee who takes FMLA leave shall be entitled to be restored to the position held prior to leave or to an equivalent position. But that doesn’t entitle an employee to anything he would have had if he hadn’t taken leave.

Ahmarani may have thought that, like a boxer, his job could be saved by the FMLA bell. But he was wrong. It was evident that had he not taken leave he’d have been fired.

Cite: Ahmarani v. Sieling & Jones, Inc., U.S. District Court, District of Maryland, No. JFM-01-2408, 7/25/02.

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