The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently reversed summary judgment for an employer in a Family and Medical Leave Act matter. Ion v. Chevron USA Inc., No. 12-60682 (5th Cir. Sept. 26, 2013), available at http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/12/12-60682-CV0.wpd.pdf.
The plaintiff was suspended for performance deficiencies. Around the same time period, the plaintiff allegedly told a co-worker that he planned to fake an illness and take FMLA leave. Following his suspension, the employee began to call in sick. Soon thereafter, he visited the employer’s medical clinic and was allegedly so disruptive that he was banned from returning. During this time, a manager noted in an email that the plaintiff seemed to be “playing games” and asked about the company’s options.
The employer fired the plaintiff, and the plaintiff filed an FMLA retaliation suit. When reversing the summary judgment, the Court explained that a jury could infer that the plaintiff’s use of FMLA leave played a part in the termination decision. For example, a jury could conclude that the “playing games” email demonstrated animus towards FMLA leave, that the company had not acted reasonably in relying on the co-worker’s statement about the employee’s intent to fake an illness because it performed no independent investigation, and that the clinic incident was not important since the termination letter did not mention it.
To learn more about FMLA leave, contact an employment lawyer in your area. This article is presented by the employment law attorneys at Clouse Dunn LLP. For inquiries, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (214) 239-2705.