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Man says he suffered retaliation after seeking FMLA leave

A healthcare crisis cannot only take a serious toll on an individual’s personal life, but it can also interfere with their ability to fully function at their job. Fortunately for most, the Family and Medical Leave Act provides some relief to individuals who work for qualifying employers. After a man claimed that he suffered retaliation after his employer violated the FMLA, a federal court that covers various states, including Michigan, agreed with him.

For 20 years, the man in question worked as an area leader at his company. During that time, he trained certain employees and operated relevant equipment. While still employed at the company in 1998, he received a diagnosis of congestive heart failure and used three months leave from his job, per the FMLA. Despite his heart condition, he returned to work and continued his employment for the following 10 years. On occasion, he utilized the FMLA leave or even short-term disability when needed.

After one instance of leave, he headed back to work in Dec. 2009 under orders from his physician that he should not continue to work continuous overtime. Despite this restriction imposed by his healthcare provider, he was scheduled overtime again and again while the company simultaneously refused to reassign him to work duties that were more in line with his heart condition. Finally, in Feb. 2010, he requested additional FMLA leave rather than having to quit his job. Instead, his employer claimed that the company no longer had enough employees to have to comply with FMLA. Deemed a liability, he was subsequently fired.

Claiming that the company purposely tampered with FMLA rights that he was entitled to, as well as retaliating against him for using them, he pursued a lawsuit against the company for monetary damages. Although a lower court initially dismissed the claim, a federal appeals court that covers Michigan ruled that the decision of whether the employer was subject to abiding by FMLA guidelines should be left to a jury. Additionally, a jury may be expected to consider his medical condition as well as his attendance at his job before coming to a conclusion regarding this case. If it is determined that he did suffer retaliation, he may be able to receive compensation for lost wages.

Source: hr.blr.com, "FMLA: Violating work restrictions, ignoring attendance policy cost employer a win", Larry Woods, July 9, 2014

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