Termination May Not Result from Improper Denial of FMLA Leave

November 19, 1998
Employers may not terminate workers for use of leave protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Martha Bryan, an assembly-line worker for Delbar Products Inc., left work early to care for her son who was hospitalized for kidney failure, despite denial of her leave request. She was then assessed a penalty "point" under the company’s absentee policy, placed on probation, and terminated one year later for excessive absenteeism after she earned six points. Bryant sued, alleging a violation of the FMLA.

A federal district court held Bryant was entitled to recovery because her termination was "a direct result" of the denial of FMLA leave. Bryant’s leave was protected under the FMLA because her son had a serious health condition and without the "point" assessed against her, Bryan would not have been fired. Bryant vs. Delbar Products Inc., M.D. Tenn., No. 2:97-0100, 8/27/98.

Employers should know that even distant results of acts in violation of the FMLA can create liability.

Source: D. Diane Hatch, a San Francisco-based human resources consultant, & James E. Hall, an attorney with Barlow, Kobata & Denis, with offices in Los Angeles and Chicago.