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Court rules FMLA retaliation lawsuit can proceed

California workers who are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act may find an Ohio case to be of interest. In November, a federal district court ruled that it will allow a retaliation lawsuit by an employee to move forward after he proved his furlough was connected to his FMLA request two days earlier. The plaintiff was the only worker furloughed by the employer.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff, a manager at a worldwide construction and engineering company, had a history of excellent performance reviews, but his relationship with a supervisor became strained after he reported a safety problem. The company refused to address the issue, and the plaintiff was threatened with termination if he reported any related accidents. He later requested FMLA leave due to a health condition, but the company furloughed him two days later, claiming it didn't land a contract he was scheduled to work on. However, no other workers were furloughed at the time. The court ruled there was a causal relation between the worker's request and the furlough and allowed the lawsuit to move forward on retaliation grounds. The plaintiff's claim of FMLA interference was dismissed.

According to legal experts, the employer left itself open to the lawsuit by singling out the plaintiff for furlough and providing no documentation it needed to eliminate his position. The fact that the plaintiff had an excellent performance record also helped the plaintiff's case.

Employees have the right to request time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act without fear of retaliation. Workers who believe they have been unlawfully terminated for requesting FMLA leave may find relief by consulting with an attorney in order to see what recourse might be available.

Source: HR Drive, "Court: Employee proves his solo 'furlough' was retaliation under FMLA," Valerie Bolden-Barrett, Dec. 12, 2016

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