Recent Family and Medical Leave Act Decisions

The Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas) recently upheld a lower court’s decision, finding that a plaintiff’s termination one day after he was informed that he was eligible for FMLA leave was lawful. The former employee had a history of work conduct issues and, when confronted on the matter, sought medical treatment for his elevated blood pressure and notified the company of safety risks he recorded (but did not report) months previously. While the company confirmed his FMLA leave eligibility, it also terminated him the following day for failure to report. 

Conversely, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld a $1.3 million damage award to an employee who was terminated for taking a vacation while he was on FMLA leave. According to the trial court, the employer terminated the employee based on “shock, outrage and offense” after the employee requested additional leave and the employer discovered he went on vacation to Mexico while on leave. The company’s HR director even admitted that she believed (erroneously) that an employee could not take a vacation while on FMLA leave. 

Business Takeaway: On the one hand, it is important to keep in mind the nuances of employee protections afforded by the FMLA. On the other, employees exhibiting poor performance or other unacceptable conduct are not immune from discipline simply because they are also eligible for FMLA leave. Contact Mark at 414-446-8800 or regarding regarding employee discrimination.