Showing posts with label FMLA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FMLA. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

“Entitlement to FMLA leave” is not a prerequisite to an FMLA retaliation claim

The 6th Circuit revived the FMLA retaliation claim of an attorney fired immediately after she requested unpaid leave to care for her two-year old child at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In mid-March 2020, Polina Milman, an attorney working at Fieger & Fieger PC, requested permission first for unpaid time off, and then to work remotely, to care for her two-year-old son who was exhibiting Covid symptoms and was already vulnerable because of a previous bout of RSV. The firm initially granted her WFH request. On her second remote workday, however, she received a termination letter, stating that she had refused to work because her "child had a cold" and "it was clear [she] had quit."

Monday, December 5, 2022

Bank properly terminates misbehaving employee despite FMLA leave, 6th Circuit holds

In 2017, a series of personal adversities, including probation for an incident with a gun and an ex-girlfriend, cocaine use, and a DUI arrest, ultimately culminated in a stroke for Mark Snyder, a financial director for U.S. Bank. When he returned in 2018 for his FMLA leave following his stroke, he suffered from residual physical and behavioral conditions, such as depression, agitation, and anxiety. Employees began to complain to management about his combative and confrontational behavior. After an investigation, the Bank told Snyder that further issues could result in other disciplinary actions, including termination of employment.

On June 4, 2018, Snyder had yet another confrontation with his supervisor, Johnnie Carrol, and his assistant Marcia Kleinhenz. As a result, Carroll emailed HR, explaining that Snyder's behavior "is consistent with his issues of attempting to intimidate people" and "I no longer think [Snyder's] situation is redeemable and feel I need to act." Carroll made the decision to terminate Snyder's employment that evening.

That same night, Snyder suffered a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized. The following day, he requested FMLA leave, which the Bank granted. A couple weeks later, however, Carroll and HR contacted Snyder to inform him that Bank was terminating his employment effective at the end of his FMLA leave.

The 6th Circuit had little difficulty affirming the dismissal of Snyder's FMLA claims.
  • On his FMLA interference claim, the Court concluded that the June 4 confrontation was the "point of no return" for Carroll, and that he made the decision to terminated Snyder before learning of his nervous breakdown and hospitalization later that night.
  • On his FMLA retaliation claim, the Court disagreed that evidence that Snyder had been a good employee before he took FMLA leave for his stroke supported a theory that the Bank schemed to push him out of the company after he took his that initial FMLA leave. To the contrary, the Court held, "Snyder cites no evidence supporting his theory that it was the FMLA leave, not the numerous complaints into his behavior, that was the reason for his termination, and "the only evidence he has supporting his theory is timing, which by itself is insufficient."
Many employers have a paralyzing fear of terminating an employee who has engaged in protected conduct, no matter the circumstances. Snyder demonstrates that this can be unfounded. The potential of a lawsuit certainly ups the ante when terminating an employee who has, for example, taken or requested FMLA leave. Yet, in the right circumstances and for the right reasons, employers do not need to live in fear of firing a deserving employee, provided that they have a legitimate reason, have taken the right steps, and have the proper documentation.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Don’t estop thinking about your leave claim

"Is there money owed to you for claims against third parties, whether or not you have filed a lawsuit or made a demand for payment, such as for accidents, employment disputes, insurance claims, or rights to sue?"

When Stephen Stanley filed his bankruptcy petition with the bankruptcy court, he answered that question, "No." 

His problem, however, was that within weeks of filing his bankruptcy, Stanley's employer fired him from job, which he believed was related to their earlier FMLA violations. 

Several months later, the bankruptcy court modified Stanley's bankruptcy plan with "no future modifications." Indeed, Stanley never disclosed to the bankruptcy court the FMLA claims (or the FMLA lawsuit he filed against his former employer) until 16 months later, and only after the employer's lawyer questioned him about it at his deposition in his FMLA interference lawsuit.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Mere "discouragement" is enough to state an FMLA interference claim, federal appeals court holds

"You've taken serious amounts of FMLA … don't take any more FMLA. If you do so, you will be disciplined."

That's what Salvatore Ziccarelli, a corrections officer with the Cook County Sheriff's Office suffering from PTSD, claimed that the FMLA manager, Wylola Shinnawi, told him upon expressing his intent to enter an eight-week in-patient treatment program. 

Based on that conversation (the substance of which Shinnawi disputed), Ziccarelli decided to retire … and sue his employer and Shinnawi for FMLA interference.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Coronavirus Update 7–22–2021: How the ADA and FMLA apply to Covid long haulers

The risks associated with Covid-19 aren't limited to the 625,000 Americans this virus has killed or the 2.3 million hospitalizations. One of the greatest risks comes from the fact that nearly one-third of Covid-19 patients will develop long-haul symptoms that long outlast the actual infection, and further that nearly one-third of all Covid long haulers had asymptomatic Covid cases. These long-haul symptoms can include fatigue, respiratory problems, "brain fog," body aches and muscle pain, abdominal issues, and loss of smell and taste. They can be quite debilitating and last for months or longer.

If you have an employee experiencing one or more of these long-haul symptoms, what are your legal obligations to that employee under ADA and FMLA?

Monday, May 3, 2021

Does President Biden have the political juice to make paid family and medical leave a reality?

For the past couple of administrations, it's a presidential rite of passage—unveiling a plan to provide paid family and medical leave to American workers. Last Wednesday night, President Biden released his proposal as part of his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

No, you don’t get to keep your paid leave after your position is eliminated

The headline reads, "Trump aides made a late request to Team Biden to extend their parental leave. They said no." Here's the story:
[A] number of ex-Trump political officials … lost their parental leave when Joe Biden was sworn into office. It's a byproduct of the field they're in: Their boss (the president) may have been the one let go, but his departure has meant that they, too, lose their jobs and benefits. Still, they argue that the Biden administration should have honored their leave by keeping them on payroll until the end of it — a request that … the Biden transition did not grant.
One such employee, Vanessa Ambrosini, welcomed a new baby the week before Christmas, and was looking forward to parental leave through mid to late March. "I got completely screwed," she says.

No, Vanessa, you didn't. What you got was unemployed, a fact of which you should have been well aware since at least November 7. In fact, you should have been aware of it for more than a month before you started your maternity leave. It seems to me these employees are trying to take advantage of the consequences of which they were well aware in an attempt to make the new administration look bad. I don't buy it.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Coronavirus Update 1-4-2021: DOL approves telemedicine visits to establish a serious health condition under the FMLA

With the COVID-19 pandemic closing health-care-provider offices or severely limiting patient access, many have turned to telehealth to remotely obtain healthcare from the safety of their homes. The question arose, however, whether these remote visits would qualify as "treatment" under the FMLA's qualifying definition of a "serious health condition," which under the FMLA's regulations requires an "in-person visit to a health care provider," and does not include "a phone call, letter, email, or text message."

While you were celebrating your December holidays, the Department of Labor issued a Field Assistance Bulletin [pdf] addressing this issue. 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

BREAKING: House passes broad coronavirus stimulus and relief package, including paid sick and family leave

It’s been 12 days since I asked if coronavirus the thing that will finally make paid family and sick leave a national reality. Twelve days in the COVID-19 news cycle feels like 12 years. Regardless, I am happy to report that in the very early hours of this morning, by a bipartisan vote of 363-40, the House passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, sweeping legislation that will provide myriad emergency relief to businesses and individuals, including paid family and sick leave.

Shortly after the House passed the bill, President Trump tweeted his support, virtually assuring a swift run through the Senate and his signature.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Is an employee entitled to FMLA leave to care for the children of a family member with coronavirus?

Among other qualifying reasons, the FMLA allows an eligible employee to take 12 weeks of annual unpaid leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Family member, however, does not mean any family member. It only applies to an employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent.

The FMLA’s definition of “son or daughter” not only includes a biological or adopted child, but also a child of a person standing “in loco parentis” (one who has day-to-day responsibility for caring for a child without a biological or legal relationship to that child).

Suppose, however, an employee’s family member contracts COVID-19. Is that employee entitled to FMLA leave to care for that family member’s minor children during the period of incapacity? According to Brede v. Apple Computer (N.D. Ohio 1/23/2020), the answer is “no.”

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Can an employer require an employee with a serious health condition to take FMLA leave?

Yesterday, in response to my post about coronavirus and paid sick leave, a commenter on LinkedIn asked whether an employer can force a sick employee to take FMLA leave.

The answer is a qualified “yes.”

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

7th Circuit concludes employer should have advised injured employee of FMLA rights even after employee went AWOL

Buddy Phillips injured his ribs while playing with his grandchildren. Over the next two weeks, he called his employer, United Trailers, to report he would miss work. Eventually, however, he stopped making these phone calls. When he failed to show up at work for three straight days without giving notice, United fired him under its attendance and reporting-off policy.

He sued, claiming that United interfered with his rights under the FMLA by failing to advise him of his rights under the statute after it had notice of his serious health condition but before he went AWOL.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Dream on — lawsuit by Aerosmith drummer highlights the legal risk of "fitness for duty" exams

Joey Kramer, Aerosmith's founding and longtime drummer, is suing his band mates after they blocked him from joining them at upcoming high-profile events, including this weekend's honor as the 2020 MusiCares Person of the Year and its Lifetime Achievement Award at this weekend's Grammys.

Kramer claims that Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton, and Brad Whitford are not allowing him back in the band following a temporary disability from minor injuries he suffered last year. According to TMZ, Kramer claims the band required him to audition to prove he was "able to play at an appropriate level" before he could regain his drummer role. He further claims that in this audition is unprecedented in the band's 50-year history, during which each of other members had to step away for various reasons.

This story got me thinking about an employer's rights when an employee seeks to return to work after a medically-related leave of absence. 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Just because you’re out on FMLA does not grant you a license to threaten your co-workers

“Hey pussy … I’m going to get you for what you did.”

Ordinarily, if one employee confronts another employee with a threat like the one above, you’d consider it grounds for termination. Maurice Darby, however, claimed that the fact that he made the threat while out on FMLA leave constituted grounds for retaliation after his employer terminated him.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Are hangovers the next frontier of your FMLA headaches?

A German court recently ruled that a hangover qualifies as an “illness.”

Which got me thinking … are hangovers the next frontier of your FMLA headaches?

Thankfully, the answer to this question is almost certainly “no.”

But it’s worth reviewing the FMLA’s definition of “serious health condition” to see how I reach that conclusion.

Monday, September 23, 2019

No-fault attendance policies offer no cover when the ADA or FMLA are involved

An employee suffering from epilepsy, migraines, and heart condition asks (with a medical note) for two unpaid days off from work unpaid to treat symptoms related to her disabilities. Instead of granting the leave, the employer assigns the employee points under its no-fault attendance policy and fires her for exceeding the allowable number of attendance points. The EEOC has sued the employer, alleging disability discrimination.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Employee fired for stacking his intermittent FMLA leave with vacation days loses retaliation claim

Kevin LaBelle, a lab technician for Cleveland Cliffs, took occasional days off from work for approved intermittent FMLA leave for flare-ups related to a shoulder injury. His employer noticed that LaBelle seems to always take his FMLA leave by combining it with scheduled days off and vacation days.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

It’s hard to win a lawsuit when you admit you don’t have a case

James Scott’s employer fired him for accumulating 10 points under its no-fault attendance policy. He claimed FMLA retaliation, alleging that his employer unlawfully assessed some of his points while he was taking FMLA-protected leave to care for his ill wife.

At his deposition, however, Scott admitted that the FMLA had nothing whatsoever to do with his termination.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

No, your FMLA does not grant you license to threaten your coworkers

After being harassed by co-workers, Paul Ellis took to Facebook to air his grievances publicly. Among his comments was one that could be perceived as a threat violence: “he’s gonna have an accident on the dock.” When another employee brought a printout of the post to their employer, FedEx, an investigation began. During that investigation. Ellis admitted that one could perceive that comment as a threat. As a result, FedEx fired him.

Prior to his termination, Ellis frequently took leave under the FMLA to receive treatments for his chronic back pain and to take care of his sick mother. He alleged that FedEx retaliated against him for his use of FMLA leave by terminating him.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Is a vacation during an FMLA leave inconsistent with an employee’s serious health condition?

A few months ago I wrote about an employee fired for taking a fishing trip while out on an FMLA leave. In that case, the court upheld the termination as lawful. Recently, however, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts considered a similar case and reached the opposite result.