Best Ohio FMLA Attorney Answer: Is it FMLA retaliation if my boss fired me when I get back from medical leave? What should I do if I was fired today when I requested to take time off for medical reasons? Who are the top wrongful termination lawyers in Ohio?
Our employment law attorneys regularly blog about employers that retaliate and wrongfully terminate employees that have taken medical leave from their jobs under about the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). (See What Can I Do If I Was Fired For Taking Approved FMLA?; Can My Job Deny Me Part Time Hours Under The FMLA?; Can My Boss Fire Me Because I Used FMLA Leave?; and Do I Get Paid On FMLA Leave? Best Attorney Reply!)
As you may already know, under FMLA, an eligible employee is entitled to up to twelve weeks of continuous leave for their own serious medical condition or to care for a sick spouse, child, or parent. (See Are All Employees Eligible For FMLA?; What Hours Count Towards My FMLA Eligibility?) Employers are not allowed to block FMLA eligible employees from taking medical leave (which is called FMLA interference) or take adverse actions against an employee who took leave, such as firing, demoting, harassing, cutting hours, etc. (which is called FMLA retaliation).
So, what if you’re a good employee who takes FMLA leave and come back to find out you are being terminated from your job? Let’s look at a case that is a good example of FMLA retaliation and wrongful termination
In Janzcak v. Tulsa Winch Inc, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeal was faced with this same question. Janzcak was the General Manager of Tulsa Winch Inc., (“TWI”) for two years when, in 2012, his immediate supervisor was let go and was considered by the company for a promotion. Janzcak received a positive performance review in June 2012. In July 2012, Janzcak was involved in a car accident and took FMLA to recover from his injuries. When Janzcak returned to work in October, he was told he was terminated from his employment. So, the employee went from being good enough to possibly warrant a promotion to being terminated with the only real occurance in between was his medical leave under the FMLA.
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Janzcak’s case should have gone to the jury to decide because of the temporal proximity between his FMLA leave and termination along with the fact that he wasn’t having any performance issues at the time of his termination. The court held:
The record makes it arguable that the decision to terminate him became definitive not on Oden’s stated date of August 14, but instead later that month, shortly after additional information about Janczak’s medical condition had been received. See DeFreitas, 577 F.3d at 1160 (observing that “[w]henever termination occurs while the employee is on leave, that timing has significant probative force,” and describing a termination that “occurred just one day after [the employee] told [the employer] that she would need to take a full six weeks off and could not return sooner” as involving “particularly suggestive” timing); cf. Brown, 700 F.3d at 1227 (stating that an employee’s being “fired only two days after his emails and meeting with [the employer] about taking time off” for FMLA reasons “may be enough to prove the third element of an interference claim, especially because the employer’s intent is irrelevant”). A reasonable jury might rely on this information to infer that the decision to eliminate Janczak’s position was related to his medical condition and his exercise of FMLA leave.
Janzcak had submitted additional information about his medical condition a day before the company began to change their position from supporting Janzcak’s potential leadership in the company to figuring out a plan to eliminate his position upon his return. The evidence that these actions occurred after he provided additional medical information motivated the court to decide that his case should have been allowed to be decided by a jury instead of a judge on a motion for summary judgment. Basically, the timing could have been sufficient enough evidence for the jury to decide whether or not the company’s motivate to terminate Janzcak was company restructuring or Janzcak’s FMLA leave.
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 to schedule a free and confidential consultation. The phone number to contact an Ohio attorney for FMLA help is 866-797-6040. While you focus on your family medical needs, let our FLMA attorneys focus on your medical leave rights.
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