South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Strict Liability for Violations of Family and Medical Leave Act
Description

Connecticut high court held that liability is imposed if an employer violates an employee’s FMLA rights. There need be no showing of an intent to violate the law for a violation to exist.

Topic Employment Law
Key Words

Family Leave; Violation; Liability

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Persky was a manager in “Sidewalk,” a joint venture between Cendant and Microsoft. About the time she was having difficulty with one of her supervisors, she told another supervisor that she would soon be taking maternity leave. Before she left, she trained Yee to perform her duties. While on leave, Cendant sold its interest in Sidewalk to Microsoft, which reorganized the venture. Persky’s position was eliminated but she was told she could apply for several other positions. She did not reply and four months later was told that her failure to apply for any of the positions indicated that she had resigned from the company. She filed a complaint with the State Department of Labor, claiming violation of FMLA for failing to reinstate her to her previous position after maternity leave. The hearing officer determined that the employer violated the statute. The Commissioner of Labor affirmed. The trial court dismissed the employer’s appeal; the employer appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. The FMLA imposes a strict liability standard. It does not require that an intent on the part of the employer to violate the statute must be shown. An employer may refuse to reinstate an employee after leave if the employee would have been terminated for some other reason if he or she had not taken leave. The evidence here is that Persky would have retained her position had she not taken leave. After she went on leave, the employer cut off all communication with her about what was going on in the department, which was not consistent with its behavior in other leave cases.

Citation

Cendant Corp. v. Comm. of Labor,---A.2d--- (2005 WL 2614960, Sup. Ct., Conn., 2005)

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