No FMLA legal responsibility if employee is not harmed, seventh Cir. says

Diving letter:

  • An employee alleging a violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was not eligible for appeal as none of their rights were denied. This has ruled the 7th US Court of Appeals (Hickey v Protective Life Corp.) 20-1076 (7th Cir., February 12, 2021)).
  • The plaintiff, who sold auto warranties and insurance products, took an FMLA vacation. During his absence, the defendant merged with another company. The plaintiff’s job was changed and the employer stated that although his compensation was guaranteed for six months after his return, he would have to build his own ledger. However, shortly after returning to work, the plaintiff was dismissed for insubordination and lack of interest. He sued, alleging interference and other violations.
  • A district court concluded that the worker did not provide evidence that they suffered harm for which the FMLA provides financial or fair remedy. In the appeal process, the 7th circuit agreed.

Dive Insight:

The FMLA prohibits “tampering” with the protection it offers, meaning that employers cannot discriminate or retaliate against workers who take FMLA leave. In particular, the FMLA makes it “illegal for any employer to interfere, restrict or refuse the exercise or attempt to exercise a right provided for in federal law”. The FMLA requires an employee to be reassigned to the same position they were in when the employee began their vacation, or to an equivalent position with equivalent work performance, wages, and other terms of employment.

In that case, the court found that, in order to survive the summary judgment, the plaintiff had to produce evidence from which a jury could conclude that he had suffered damage resulting from one of those adverse acts the FMLA was responsible for Remedy.

“Here when [the plaintiff] After his FMLA leave of absence, he initially received the same salary and benefits as before his leave of absence. Under the agreement he’d made on his return, his compensation could have been reduced after six months if he’d been with Protective for that period. However, his employment with Protective ended approximately three weeks after his return for reasons unrelated to his taking an FMLA vacation, “the court said.

Although the plaintiff might have received damages if he had continued with Protective, at the time of termination, he had not received any recoverable damages under the FMLA.

In addition, the FMLA does not prohibit employers from taking any action unrelated to an employee’s vacation. The law does not protect an employee from, for example, a layoff that would have occurred under FMLA regulations, regardless of whether the employee was on vacation or not.

Comments are closed.