Monday, October 18, 2010

Employee Granted All FMLA Leave, Court Still Allows Interference Claim to Proceed

In an interesting decision out of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, a former legal secretary's FMLA interference claim was remanded back to trial court and summary judgment was reversed even though the employer granted all of the employee's FMLA leave request.

Usually when an employer grants all of an employee's FMLA leave a court grants summary judgment. So where's the twist? Well, her employer, the Ballard Spahr law firm, allegedly misinformed the plaintiff, Vanessa McFadden, about her entitlement and harassed her for taking too much time off. As a result, the plaintiff took less time off than she was entitled to take, and she paid her sister to care for her husband when she did not take off work. (She originally took leave to care for her husband who was suffering from cancer).

In 2003, the plaintiff began to have her own health problems. After exhausting all available paid and unpaid leave, she was terminated when she indicated that she could not perform the essential functions of her secretarial position on her return to work. She then sued, alleging, inter alia, FMLA interference. In doing so, the D.C. Circuit carved out an exception!

The case is McFadden v. Ballard Spahr Andrews Ingersoll LLP, NO. 08-7140 (Fed. Cir. June 29, 2010).

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