Employee’s FMLA Claims Survive Because Employer Miscounted Leave Days Used

By James M. Paul September 6, 2017
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Employee’s FMLA Claims Survive Because Employer Miscounted Leave Days Used

A former teacher's assistant could pursue his interference and retaliation claims under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) because he properly alleged he was eligible for FMLA leave and argued his employer school district miscalculated the amount of leave time he used, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ruled.

The Maywood Melrose Park Broadview School District hired Cleon Jones in 2013. In February 2016, Jones applied for FMLA leave to care for his ill mother, who was diagnosed with cancer.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Coordinating Leaves of Absence]

The school district approved the leave request from Feb. 23 through May 16, 2016. Jones claimed that the school district miscalculated his 12 weeks of leave entitlement because the school district's spring break ran from March 25 through April 1, and that week should not have counted against Jones' 12 weeks of available leave. Therefore, he claimed that his FMLA time did not expire until May 24, 2016.

Jones did not show up for work or call his employer before May 24, 2016, so the school district disciplined him for "no call/no show" violations between May 16 and May 24. That discipline resulted in Jones being placed on administrative leave, and he then filed an FMLA lawsuit.

The school district filed a motion to dismiss his FMLA claims, but the district court explained that all of Jones' allegations must be accepted as true at the initial stage of the litigation. Because one of the U.S. Department of Labor's regulations relating to the FMLA states that employer closures during which employees are not expected to report to work for at least one week do not count against an employee's 12-week FMLA entitlement, Jones could pursue his FMLA interference and retaliation claims against the school district.

Jones v. Maywood Melrose Park Broadview School District, No. 16-cv-09652 (July 11, 2017).

Professional Pointer: Holidays, spring breaks and office closures may or may not be counted against an employee's 12-week FMLA entitlement, depending on the length of the leave, the length of the holiday/break/closure, and whether the employee would otherwise be required to work on those days or weeks. Miscounting an employee's amount of FMLA leave and improperly discharging that employee could result in successful claims under the law.

James M. Paul is an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in St. Louis.

 

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