Fired employee not eligible for FMLA — sues for retaliation anyway

A recent court case gives managers a warning about handling employees who are turned down for medical leave: Retaliation charges can be filed by employees even if they aren’t eligible to take FMLA.
Here’s what happened:
An employee told his boss he needed FMLA leave to care for his newborn son, who was  in the hospital. He had worked for the company for less than a year, but would have been employed for 15 months by the time he’d use the leave.
The boss said he’d look into it. However, before any decision was made about his FMLA request, the company decided to let him go, citing an inadequate skill set.
The employee sued, claiming he was fired because he requested FMLA leave.
The company tried to have the case thrown out because the employee wasn’t eligible for FMLA when he was terminated, so he had no standing to sue.
But the court didn’t buy it. In addition to people who use FMLA, the law says employees who “attempt” to use it — meaning, according to the worker, people who ask for FMLA leave but are turned down. Those employees can still make a case for retaliation under the law.
That means managers need to be careful that documentation backs up any action taken against employees who’ve asked for FMLA leave — even if those employees weren’t eligible.
Cite: Reynolds v. Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair

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