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Michigan employee fights for family and medical leave benefits

In a case of alleged wrongful termination, an 18-year veteran of a county road commission won a partial victory from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. The man can continue his legal actions against his former employer regarding his right to claim Family and Medical Leave Act benefits.

According to court records, his disputed eligibility for family leave began when he took time off after experiencing symptoms like a heart attack. His employee manual stated only that full-time employees who had worked at least 1,250 hours in the past 12 months were eligible for family leave. The commission initially agreed that he was eligible but then reversed its decision and terminated the man. The official reason given was that he had been missing work deadlines. The commission also decided that he had not been eligible for family leave because it did not employ more than 50 people within 75 miles of the man's workplace.

He initiated a suit against his former employer complaining of age discrimination and the withholding of family leave benefits. Although the 6th Circuit sided with the employer regarding his claim of age discrimination, it ruled that his family leave complaint could go forward because the employee handbook at the time clearly stated he was eligible. The lower district court will handle his ongoing family leave lawsuit.

This man's legal battle highlights the possibility of an employer taking retaliatory action against an employee who believed himself to be acting within his rights. A person confronted with possible workplace discrimination might be able to learn about their employee rights by consulting with a lawyer. If discrimination based on age, gender, race or religion can be shown, a wrongful termination suit may be warranted.

Source: Bloomberg BNA, "Sixth Circuit Revives Worker's Equitable Estoppel Claim Related to FMLA Eligibility," Lisa Nagele, Jan. 26, 2015

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