Many California workers know that the Family and Medical Leave Act is designed to protect them in the event they must take time off work for family or medical reasons. However, a court case showed that a worker can still be terminated from his or her job while on FMLA leave if the reasons for termination are unrelated.
In Jones v. Gulf Coast Health Care of Delaware, an employee used his FMLA leave when he needed to have surgery on his shoulder. As he was unable to return to work for 12 weeks, he was granted an additional month of non-FMLA leave by his employer. During the additional month off, however, he posted photos of his Caribbean vacation and other exploits to his social media pages. He was then ultimately fired by his employer after the employer believed that he could return to work earlier. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decided in favor of the employer.
As such, employees can face punishments, such as termination, if they do not use their FMLA leave for its intended purposes as this is known as FMLA fraud. Employers could determine that an employee did not use his or her FMLA leave as intended through an investigation, which could include photos and posts to social media sites.
While there are some employees who may take liberty with their FMLA leave, others take the time to welcome a new family member to their household, care for sick family members or recover from injuries, illnesses or surgeries. If an employee faces discrimination for taking family leave, such as through retaliation or termination, an employment law attorney could represent the employee by filing a lawsuit against the employer. If the employee was fired for taking leave, the employer may seek to have the employee reinstated and may seek to recover compensation for lost income.