One company terminated an employee with performance problems – but ended up in court because he was on protected leave at the time.
Here’s why a court ruled against the company.
Fired two months in
James Hester worked as an engineer for Texas-based company Bell-Textron Inc. for more than 20 years. During his time there, he only received one bad performance review.
After the review, Hester was given a “final warning” to improve his performance or face termination. Not long after, Hester requested FMLA leave due to his epilepsy. Two months into that leave, Bell-Textron fired Hester for poor performance. Hester than sued for FMLA violation.
The company argued Hester’s firing had nothing to do with his FMLA leave and was because of his poor performance, which was documented. But the 5th Circuit disagreed.
The court said because Hester was fired during his leave, the timeline indicates the company’s decision wasn’t “completely unrelated” to Hester’s FMLA leave.
This case is a reminder that even if the worker has a history of poor performance, the timing of terminations does matter.
Cite: Hester v. Bell-Textron Inc., 8/23/21.