Court: Employee proves his solo 'furlough' was retaliation under FMLA
- A federal court is allowing an employee to move forward with a retaliation claim after proving there was a connection between his family leave request and his furlough two days later, reports the HR Daily Advisor.
- The employee, a manager with CB&I Constructors, Inc., had always received good to excellent performance evaluations. But relations with his supervisor soured after he reported a safety concern, which the company wouldn’t address, and escalated until he was threatened with being fired if he reported any related accidents. When he eventually requested leave for a health condition, the company told him it didn’t receive a contract he was supposed to work on and furloughed him two days after his leave request.
- The court dismissed his FMLA interference claim because the employer never denied his leave request. But he proved there was a causal relation between the request and being furloughed just two days later. The court has allowed him to proceed with the FMLA and safety retaliation claims.
The employer made notable missteps in this case. It cited a work reduction as the cause for furloughing the employee, but only furloughed him (not any other employees) and provided no documentation that it needed to eliminate his position. It’s worth noting that the company chose to call the employee’s dismissal a “furlough,” as if it planned to recall him, rather than a “termination.”
An employee’s sudden “unacceptable” performance always raises suspicion. The worker in this case always earned high performance ratings, and the company apparently failed to provide any information proving otherwise.
Documentation is key whenever an employer must make a personnel decision. In this case, not only was there no solid documentation, but there were also signs of a cover-up from management, leading to the decision allowing the employee to proceed.
- HR Daily Advisor One-Employee ‘Furlough’ Evidence of FMLA Retaliation