Good news: A new court ruling reiterates that employees can’t take leave to prevent themselves from being fired.
‘The witch is dead’
Here are the details of the case:
Wendy Barnett was a registered nurse at Aultman Hospital.
When Barnett heard her manager, whom she had described as “abusive,” was being fired, she immediately fired off a vindictive Facebook message to 14 people, including nine present or former colleagues at the hospital.
The message read, in part (and without edits):
Lisa got officially ax (sic) today! I am singing DING DONG THE WITCH IS DEAD THE WICKED WITCH, DING DONG THE WICKED WITCH IS DEAD.
… I would much rather get [expletive] up the [expletive]with hot pepper than endured what that souless (sic) bitch put me through for 4 years…including turning me into the board…God does grind a fine mill when revenge is taken on by him…back when I was off due to drug accusations and praying, and praying, never would I have imagined she lose (sic) her job, marriage, and family, friends all at the same time! Karma Now I should tell you how I really feel!
Love and fuzzies,
The hospital found out about the message and launched an investigation. Barnett initially denied writing it and said that people had hacked into her Facebook account. The hospital suspended Barnett with pay, pending an investigation. Soon after, the hospital decided to fire her.
While suspended, Barnett reached out to the hospital for information about taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
When an exec at the hospital called Barnett about coming into the office for a meeting, Barnett, sensing her termination was coming soon, said that she was taking FMLA leave and that her doctor would send over medical certification, which he did.
Barnett finally agreed to meet the next week, at which time she was told she was being fired not for the message she sent, but for lying about writing it.
Barnett then admitted she had lied about everything. She was still fired for her dishonesty.
Leave doesn’t protect staffers
Barnett sued, claiming the hospital retaliated against her for taking FMLA leave.
Not a chance, said the court.
For one, the company had decided to fire Barnett before she sought leave under the FMLA.
Two, Barnett wasn’t fired for taking leave — she was fired for being dishonest.
And finally, requesting FMLA leave didn’t prohibit the hospital from firing Barnett anyway — the reason for the termination was unrelated.
Score one for employers.
The case is Barnett v. Aultman Hospital.