Legal Briefing: Migraines Produce Headache for Boeing


Oct. 2, 2014

Jill Alexander, a Boeing Co. manager, applied for time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act for her migraines. Alexander took intermittent FMLA leave, but after Boeing changed its policy to not allow employees to work partial or flexible days, her absences were more frequent, and she was terminated for job abandonment after she did not report to work for four days. Alexander sued Boeing for FMLA violations and disability bias and failure to accommodate her disability.

The U.S. Court for the Western District of Washington denied Boeing’s motion for summary judgment. The court held that Alexander raised material factual disputes about whether she was eligible for FMLA leave because she presented testimony that she worked off-the-clock hours that should be considered hours of service for FMLA eligibility. She also showed her use of FMLA leave was a “negative factor” in the company’s decision to terminate her.

The court also held that because Boeing knew about Alexander’s migraines and that they were the cause of most of her absences, yet still terminated her, she presented direct evidence of disability discrimination. Alexander v. Boeing Co., No. 2:13-cv-01369, W.D. Washington, (July 28, 2014).

IMPACT: An employer’s notice of an employee’s medical condition or disability can be direct evidence of FMLA violations or disability discrimination.

James E. Hall, Mark T. Kobata and Marty Denis are partners in the law firm Barlow, Kobata and Denis, which has offices in Los Angeles and Chicago. To comment, email FollowWorkforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.

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