Legal Briefings: Firing After FMLA Opens Legal Floodgates

By James Hall

Feb. 24, 2015

On Nov. 23, 2010, after unsuccessfully attempting to contact her supervisor for permission to leave her pharmaceutical job to retrieve medication from her home for back pain, Lori Flood nonetheless left the pharmacy. When she returned, her supervisor noted that she seemed confused and was slurring her words. Flood was placed on administrative leave pending a fitness for duty evaluation. On Jan. 10, 2011, Flood submitted a Family and Medical Leave Act medical certification and was terminated two days later.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland denied University of Maryland Medical System’s summary judgment motion on Flood’s FMLA retaliation claim, finding that Flood established a causal link based on the temporal proximity between her FMLA leave request and her termination. “Given UMMS’s position concerning the severity of Flood’s violation, the seven-week gap between the violation and her termination [and] the temporal proximity between establishing her eligibility for FMLA protected leave and her termination … the court concludes there is sufficient evidence for a jury to find pretext.” Flood v. University of Maryland Medical System Corp., Case No. 12-02100, (Dec. 23, 2014).

IMPACTThe timing of terminating an employee after a request for a protected leave can call into question whether the termination is for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason.

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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