SW Legal studies in Business

Employee May Collect Damages for Retaliation by Employer for Exercise of FMLA Rights
Description

Appeals court upheld a jury verdict in favor of an employee who was fired soon after taking FMLA leave during a busy time in the office. It was up to the jury to determine if the firing was in retaliation for taking the leave or due to the employee having been in an argument.

Topic Employment Law
Key Words

Family and Medical Leave Act; Retaliation

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Bryant began work at Dollar General in 2001 as a programmer analyst. She had various medical problems. In 2004, during a crunch time in the office, Bryant completed paperwork for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave. Right after she turned in the paperwork, the company began disciplinary proceedings against her for an argument in the office. She took six days’ leave and was fired when she returned. She sued, contending she was fired in retaliation for taking FMLA leave. The employer claimed there was no link between her taking the leave and the reason she was fired, which was for getting into an argument at work. The jury held in her favor and awarded $74,000 in damages. Dollar General appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. The FMLA prohibits an employer from taking adverse employment actions against an employee based on the employee’s exercise of FMLA-guaranteed leave. It was up to the jury to determine if, given the evidence, the reason for the dismissal was in retaliation for taking leave during a busy time, or if it was for improper actions in the office due to an argument.

Citation Bryant v. Dollar General Corp., 538 F.3d 394 (6th Cir., 2008)

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