Third Circuit: FMLA Leave Cannot be Any Basis for Adverse Action against Employees

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November 14, 2016

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In Egan v. Delaware River Port Authority, the Third Circuit court stated that any time an employee’s use of FMLA leave is given any “negative weight” when taking an adverse employment action against an employee, it is considered to be retaliation. There, the plaintiff was granted intermittent FMLA leave for migraines.  Though the employer approved the time off, the plaintiff believed that management was unhappy with him taking time off.  When his position was later eliminated, the employee sued, alleging that that his employer had a “mixed-motive” for his termination, and that he was retaliated at least in part for taking FMLA leave.

The Third Circuit confirmed that negative employment actions cannot be taken against employees for exercising FMLA rights, even if the leave is only a partial or minor factor in the decision-making process leading to the adverse action. The court stated that the Dept. of Labor regulation that sets forth the “mixed-motive” rule is consistent with the purpose of FMLA, which includes entitling employees to take medical leave without interference.

Employers should take care when considering adverse action against employees who are on any type of FMLA leave and should consult labor counsel when possible.

Action Items

  1. Train managers or supervisory staff who make disciplinary or employment decisions on employees’ protected activities, including FMLA leave.
  2. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

© 2017 ManagEase, Incorporated.

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