Best Ohio FMLA Attorney Answer: What rights do I have under the FMLA to take medical time off from work for alcohol dependency? How long of a medical leave can I take from my job for a serious medical condition? Can I sue if I was wrongfully fired for asking for a disability accommodation at work?
At the Spitz law firm, our hardworking employment discrimination lawyers have dedicated themselves to helping current and former employees who have been suffered retaliation at the hands of their boss, manager or supervisor in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA“) in the workplace.
As our lawyers have blogged about before, the FMLA, which is a federal law, gives employees extended time away from work, to handle certain family or medical needs. (See Can My Job Require A Second Opinion To Get FMLA Leave?; What Can I Do If I Was Fired For Taking Approved FMLA Leave?; Do I Have A Claim For FMLA Retaliation?; Do I Get Paid On FMLA Leave? Best Attorney Reply!; What Should I Do If I Was Harassed For Using FMLA?; and Can My Job Block Me From Coming Back From FMLA Leave?) Pursuant to this federal law, your employer must provide eligible employees with a maximum of twelve weeks of leave if the employer is a private business engaged in, or affecting, interstate commerce, that employed fifty or more employees in twenty or more weeks in the current or prior calendar year.
Furthermore, an employee who works for a covered employer is eligible for leave if he or she worked for the employer for at least twelve months, and for at least 1,250 hours over the twelve months immediately preceding the need for leave. (See Top FMLA Lawyer Reply: Am I Eligible For Medical Leave From My Job?; What Hours Count Towards My FMLA Eligibility?; and Does My Time As A Temp Count Toward My FMLA Eligibility?)
Specifically, an eligible employee may take leave:
- For the birth, adoption, or placement of a child;
- To care for a spouse, minor, or incompetent child, or parent who has a “serious health condition” (more on this below); or
- To handle the employee’s own serious health condition that makes him or her unable to work.
Moreover, § 2615 of the FMLA prohibits employers from discharging, discriminating or otherwise retaliating against an employee for exercising his rights under the FMLA. Importantly, when an employee returns from leave granted by the FMLA, he or she is entitled to be restored to his or her former job, or to an equivalent job, with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms of employment.
Separately, all employees are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA“) and Ohio’s R.C. § 4112.02(A) from being discriminated against or retaliated against by their employers on the basis of their actual or perceived disability. As our lawyers have also blogged, these laws also prohibit employers from making pre-employment, disability-related inquiries of job applicants. (See ADA Law: How Do I Get A Disability Accommodation At Work?; Can I Be Denied A Job Because Of Prescribed Medications?; and Can Be Fired For Taking Time Off For Fertility Treatments?) Moreover, The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who, either with or without such accommodations, are qualified to “perform the essential functions of the employment position.”
Recently, in Lankford v. Reladyne, LLC, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio examined a former Employee’s FMLA retaliation claim against a former employer who filed a motion for summary judgment seeking to dismiss the Employee’s claims before a jury could even hear the FMLA and disability claims.
Roger Paul Lankford alleged that Defendants Reladyne, LLC and Four O Corporation discriminated against him because of his disability in violation of the ADA and analogous state law, interfered with his rights under the FMLA, and unlawfully retaliated against him when they terminated his employment in February 2014. Specifically, the employee claimed that he was terminated because he suffered from, and took FMLA leave due to, alcohol dependency. The employer should have read some of our past employment law blogs. (See Is Alcoholism A Disability Under The ADA?; I Was Fired For Going To AA Meetings. ADA Violation?).
The court denied the employer’s summary judgment as to the FMLA and disability discrimination claims brought by the employee. First, as to the employee’s FMLA “interference” claim, the court determined:
Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the Court finds that a reasonable trier of fact could conclude that Defendants denied Plaintiff FMLA benefits to which he was entitled. Plaintiff requested FMLA leave on January 28, 2014 to obtain inpatient treatment for his alcohol dependency. When he returned from leave, he was not reinstated to his position or to an equivalent position, as required by 29 U.S.C. § 2614(a)(1).
Further, Plaintiff sets forth evidence indicating that Defendants may have used his FMLA leave as a negative factor in their decision to terminate him, which is prohibited.
Similarly, the court denied summary judgment as to the employee’s FMLA “retaliation” claim, focusing primarily on the short time-frame between Employee’s FMLA use and his termination:
Here, the temporal proximity between Plaintiff’s request for FMLA leave and his termination is significant. Plaintiff requested FMLA leave on January 28, 2014. Reladyne’s other upper-level managers did not become aware of the request for medical leave until February 4, 2014. … At the latest, they determined that Plaintiff should be terminated on February 6, 2014.
A reasonable juror could conclude that, because the decision to terminate Plaintiff was made almost immediately following his request for medical leave, there was a causal connection between his FMLA leave and his termination. Further, Plaintiff has provided additional evidence of causation in the form of statements made by Reladyne managers regarding his termination.
Having satisfied the prima facie case (which means initial legal burden) for both FMLA interference and retaliation, the court next looked at whether there was evidence of “pretext” that countered the “legitimate business reason” for the employee’s termination. Again, the court sided with the employee:
Taking all of the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the Court finds that the written and oral statements made by Reladyne managers, and the timing of such, provide evidence from which a juror could reasonably infer that that Luke’s investigation and report were part of a cover-up to make Plaintiff’s termination appear legitimate. At this stage, the relevant inquiry is whether Plaintiff has produced evidence from which a jury could reasonably doubt the employer’s stated explanation. For the reasons set forth above, the Court finds that Plaintiff has produced such evidence, as to his FMLA interference and retaliation claims. Accordingly, Plaintiff has carried his burden as to pretext, and Defendants’ motion for summary judgment is denied as to Plaintiff’s FMLA claims.
The court then denied summary judgment as to the employee’s disability discrimination and retaliation claims as well, making a clean sweep for the employee.
As you can see above, these types of cases can be tricky and hinge on of certain facts and evidence are presented to the court. Luckily, you do not have to go it alone.
Having to live with a disability is difficult enough without worrying about the effect it may have on your job. If you are disabled or your employer perceives you as being disabled; and you have been fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, denied wages, or even think that you might need a disability discrimination lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Likewise, if you feel that you are being denied leave rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or are being retaliated against for taking medical leave, you should call the right attorney as quickly as possible. The phone number to contact an Ohio attorney for FMLA and disability discrimination help is 866-797-6040. While you focus on your family medical or disability needs, let our FLMA attorneys focus on your medical leave rights.
This employment law website is an advertisement. The materials available at the top of this medical leave page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “how do I get medical leave under the FMLA?”, “what should I do when my job won’t give me medical leave?”, “can my boss deny me medical leave?”, “what should I do if I was fired in retaliation for taking FMLA leave?”, or “is my employer allowed to…?”, your best option is to contact an Ohio medical leave attorney to obtain advice with respect to FMLA questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of the Spitz law firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.