Litigation on Disciplining Staff and FMLA Go away

Thursday February 11, 2021

On February 5, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Delaware District issued a summary judgment in Snyder v EI DuPont de Nemours, Inc. and Company, No. 18-1266, finding that DuPont’s employment relationship was his has not finished. Peggy Snyder in retaliation for taking family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave.


Snyder worked for DuPont as a technician for 19 years. During that time, she took “approximately 20 FMLA and short-term disability leave”. DuPont granted every request for leave of absence. After each vacation, Snyder was returned to the same or similar position with the same salary and benefits.

In March 2016, Snyder underwent a posterior tibial tendon reconstruction on her left foot. She was approved for approximately three months of FMLA and short-term disability leave to recover from the surgery. As outlined in her doctor’s FMLA certification form for healthcare providers, she was instructed not to put weight on her foot for 10 weeks after her surgery.

During Snyder’s vacation, a staff member told the area manager that he saw Snyder walking around at a pool party. The employee also reported that “two-thirds of the [work]Countless people ”told him that Snyder routinely“ took advantage of DuPont’s short term disability program and acted in ways that were incompatible with the need for disability leave ”. Accordingly, DuPont hired an investigative agency to monitor Snyder to “ensure”[e] The [Snyder] the restrictions respected [of her doctor] on and off duty. “(Original brackets.)

Video surveillance was used to observe how Snyder “(1) repeatedly stepped into them [vehicle] and driving, (2) walking around a back yard and going down stairs, and (3) lifting a young child off the ground. “This behavior contradicted both Snyder’s doctor’s instructions to” stay calm “and avoid driving, as well as her reports to her superiors that” they are just lying around … in pain “, that they do not” come to work and ” sit down ”and that she could hardly walk. (Original ellipses.) In August 2016, Snyder DuPont Medical reported that her “left foot”[a]hurt me very much[ful]”And that her foot was” swollen “. (Original brackets.) At the same time, the investigator observed how Snyder” walked with no apparent physical problems “,” got a manicure and pedicure “and” mowed her lawn on a riding tractor for 90 minutes ” .

In September 2016 DuPont fired Snyder “because she gave [DuPont] inaccurate information[,] … Did not follow the instructions of her own doctor… and [did] not behave[e] in a way that is consistent with [her] Recovery. ‘”(Original brackets and ellipses.) In August 2018, Snyder filed a six-count lawsuit, five of which were dismissed by provision. The remaining count, FMLA retaliation, was decided in favor of DuPont in a summary judgment.

Analysis of the court

The court analyzed Snyder’s FMLA retaliation claim as part of the McDonnell Douglas relocation. In this context, Snyder first had to prove the following: “(1) She invoked her right to FMLA-qualified leave, (2) she suffered a negative employment decision and (3) the disadvantageous measure was causal with her claiming of associated rights.” Snyder alleged two negative employment measures: DuPont’s decision to monitor her and her termination of employment.

For her termination claim, Snyder relied not on temporal proximity, but on DuPont’s alleged antagonism and animus towards her in order to establish the necessary causal link. The court found no pattern of antagonism and found that (i) Snyder took approximately 20 FMLA and short-term disability leave with no adverse consequences; (ii) DuPont never denied Snyder an application for FMLA leave; and (iii) Snyder has been consistently returned to the same or a similar position with the same benefits and salaries at the end of her absence. The court also found that even when Snyder found her allegations of FMLA retaliation, DuPont had given a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for termination of her employment for which Snyder had no pretext.

Snyder’s pretexts mainly centered on (i) DuPont’s progressive discipline, (ii) DuPont’s alleged failure to check with Snyder’s attending physician whether she had violated his instructions, (iii) her attempts to discredit the video evidence, (iv) statements The Plant Manager alleged by Snyder demonstrated animus and (v) repeated efforts by DuPont to persuade Snyder to retire.

Regarding the progressive disciplinary policy, the court found that the policy explicitly provided for the immediate termination of an employee’s employment relationship. Regarding her attending physician, the court found that “Snyder admits[ted] that DuPont’s medical department “monitors” and “communicates with” her [her physician’s] Office regularly with ongoing emails and messages. “The court decided that”[t]Attending the medical explanations and video surveillance provided to DuPont gave rise to the belief that Snyder was misrepresenting her condition and violating her doctor’s instructions. As for the video evidence, the court was won over by the video of Snyder carrying the weight, driving her vehicle, and lifting a child – all while her doctor “ordered [her] do not drive and do not strain yourself. “Next, the court examined whether the operations manager’s testimony gave rise to an animus that Snyder would have“ immediately … saved the minimum time to reset the FMLA clock and then immediately get out and then return to work ”. The court found that the comment was made more than three years after Snyder’s release and that it was merely a “stray comment”[]In the end, the court analyzed three letters from DuPont’s HR manager[ing] that she resigns “and” implies that she should apply for “Total & Permanent Disability Leave”, “concluded that such letters the company sent to Snyder more than a decade before she was fired were not evidence of animus .

In support of the surveillance claim, DuPont acknowledged that “the surveillance was viewed by the courts as an inherently detrimental employment measure,” and did not deny that Snyder had identified a pretense of retaliation based on the surveillance. Instead, DuPont focused on the lack of an excuse. The court found that DuPont had given a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for monitoring Snyder and found that several employees had expressed doubts about their disability leave and that “‘[n]Nothing in the FMLA prevents employers from ensuring that employees who are on vacation do not abuse their vacation time. “(Original brackets.) As with her dismissal claim, Snyder relied not only on hearsay but also on DuPont’s progressive disciplinary policy. Again, the court found no evidence of an excuse.

The central theses

This decision provides helpful pointers to employers wondering whether their employees are misusing vacation. It is not uncommon for employees to question the legitimacy of an employee’s short-term disability leave after observing inconsistent behavior. In such a scenario, employers may want to consider whether to conduct surveillance and determine if the employee is acting in a manner that is inconsistent with their own doctor’s instructions regarding physical limitations. In addition, employers may want to revise their advanced discipline guidelines to ensure that they allow for immediate termination at the employer’s discretion.

© 2020, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak and Stewart, PC, All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 42

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