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Federal court reinstates employee's FMLA claim

It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If an employer retaliates or discriminates against a worker for taking approved family or medical leave, then the worker can bring a civil claim against the employer.

A federal court recently affirmed a woman's right to sue her employer for retaliation under the FMLA. The woman had worked for a brokerage firm in Kentucky for 29 years when she requested FMLA leave in June 2009. She required knee-replacement surgery, and her doctor estimated that she would be able to go back to work after Oct. 11, 2009.

Matters became more complicated, however, when the woman's short-term disability insurer estimated that she could return to work on Sept. 22 of that same year. A human resources manager at the brokerage firm contacted the woman in mid-September, and the woman tried unsuccessfully to explain to the manager that short-term disability and FMLA leave were not the same thing.

According to her suit, after the woman's return to work on Oct. 1, a co-worker started keeping tabs on her, noting when she arrived and left. The co-worker claimed that she was five minutes late to work on five separate days, and she was fired nine days after she came back from FMLA leave. He tardiness was given as a reason for her termination.

The woman brought claims of retaliation and interference against her employer in U.S. District Court, and both claims were dismissed after the employer motioned for summary judgment. However, in a 2-1 ruling, a federal appellate panel disagreed with the lower court and reinstated the retaliation claim.

The ultimate outcome of the lawsuit remains to be seen.

If you would like to learn more about the FMLA and other employee rights, then our main employment law website is a good place to start.

Source: Business Insurance, "FMLA suit of worker fired after returning from leave reinstated," Judy Greenwald, Oct. 31, 2014

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