Friday, April 30, 2010

Temporal Proximity Trumped by Unawareness of Plaintiff’s Request for Medical Leave

In Krutzig v. Pulte Home Corp., 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 7029, 15 Wage & Hour Cas. 2d (BNA) 1879 (11th Cir. April 5, 2010), the plaintiff was terminated the day after her request for medical leave. Despite that extreme temporal proximity, the defense prevailed because it was established that the supervisor who made the decision to fire the plaintiff was unaware of the plaintiff’s request for medical leave.

Some years ago in Strickland v. Water Works and Sewer Board of Birmingham, 239 F.3d 1199 (11th Cir. 2001), the 11th Circuit had held that reinstatement after FMLA leave was not an absolute right, and that, if an employer can show that it refused to reinstate an employee for a reason unrelated to FMLA leave, the employer is not liable for failing to reinstate the employee after the employee has taken FMLA leave. In Krutzig, the 11th Circuit decided the companion issue, that is, whether the FMLA right to commence leave is absolute, and the court, following the reasoning of the 6th, 8th, and 10th Circuits, held that the right to commence FMLA leave is not absolute, and that an employee can be dismissed, preventing the employee from exercising his / her right to commence FMLA leave, if the employee would have been dismissed regardless of any request for FMLA leave. See also Phillips v. Mathews, 547 F.3d 905 (8th Cir. 2008); Bones v. Honeywell Int'l, Inc., 366 F.3d 869, 877 (10th Cir. 2004); Arban v. West Publ'g Corp., 345 F.3d 390 (6th Cir. 2003).

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