South-Western Legal Studies in Business

FMLA Leave Eligibility Counts All Periods of Employment with One Employer
Description

Appeals court held that courts will defer to Department of Labor regulation that to obtain FMLA leave, an employee must have 12 months of previous employment at any time. Earlier periods of employment can count; the months need not be consecutive.

Topic Employment Law
Key Words

FMLA, Eligibility, Interpretation

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Rucker worked as a salesman for Lee Auto for five years. He left, then returned five years later. Seven months after rejoining Lee, Rucker took medical cleave. Two months later, he was fired. He sued, claiming his firing was in violation of FMLA. The district court dismissed his suit because he had not been at Lee for twelve months. Rucker appealed.

Decision

Reversed and remanded. The statute says that an “eligible employee” must have been employed “for at least 12 months by the employer.” That is unclear as to whether it means the most recent 12 months or any 12 months. Department of Labor regulations state that all periods of time count toward the 12 months. Courts must defer to agency’s regulations so long as reasonable. Hence, the regulatory definition of 12 months will control.

Citation

Rucker v. Lee Holding Co., 471 F.3d 6 (1st Cir., 2006)

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