Illness-inspired performance problems not protected by taking FMLA leave

An employee who was already on notice for her poor performance took FMLA leave for treatment of her clinical depression.

When she was on leave, her employer discovered many more mistakes she’d made and covered up – mistakes that hurt the company’s bottom line. And business mistakes aren’t protected in FMLA regulations.

No excuse under FMLA regulations

When she returned from medical leave she was confronted with her errors. And when she couldn’t come up with a plausible excuse, she was fired.

The employee sued, claiming that her employer had interfered with her rights under FMLA regulations. She maintained that the mistakes she’d made were on account of the depression she was suffering.

In court the employer showed a number of written warnings that the employee’s supervisor had sent to her before her FMLA medical leave.

These warnings stated clearly that the woman’s job was in jeopardy (long before her leave) because of her poor performance, not her mental condition.

The employee’s claim that her depression led to her poor performance didn’t sway the court.

In issuing his ruling, the judge stated, “While it may be true that the problems were a result of her illness, the FMLA does not protect an employee from performance problems caused by the condition for which FMLA leave is taken, nor does it require that an employee be given the opportunity to show improved job performance when not ill.”

Cite: McBride v. Citgo Petroleum Corp., U.S. District Court of Appeals, 10th Circuit, No. 01-5039, 2/21/02.

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