In November of 2013, the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky decided a case that involved a Kentucky FMLA plaintiff. (See Wallner v. J.J. B. Hillard, W.L. Lyons, LLC, 2013 WL 5934145 (W.D. Ky. 2013)). Before the court was defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Id. The court granted the motion for the following reasons.
Plaintiff was hired by defendant in August of 1982 to work as an options trader. Id. During the course of plaintiff’s employment with the defendant she had a new manager supervise her. And for the most part, things went well. But, between 2003 and 2007 the plaintiff started arriving late to work. Though plaintiff was never documented for her tardiness, the manager testified that her tardiness had become a major problem. Id. Such that the manager went to his supervisor to discuss the problem. It was at this time that plaintiff should have contacted a Kentucky FMLA lawyer.
Finally, in January of 2009, the Kentucky FMLA plaintiff took an unscheduled absence from work. Id. She left early for a vacation. So, upon her return, the manager wrote plaintiff up and told her “any further unscheduled absences or tardiness will be subject to further disciplinary action up to and including termination.” Id. Again, before signing this, plaintiff should have spoken to a Kentucky FMLA lawyer.
Later that year, on June 5, 2009, plaintiff visited a doctor for knee problems she was having. Id. It was decided that plaintiff needed knee replacement. Id. Surgery was scheduled for August 11, 2009. Plaintiff informed her Kentucky FMLA employer and that she would need 6 weeks off. The FMLA paperwork was submitted and approved. She had the surgery and FMLA leave began. During the leave she did receive a letter indicating that if she needed to extend her short term disability past September 21, that she would need to provide additional documentation. Id.
Towards the end of her Kentucky FMLA leave, Plaintiff spoke to her employer and there was confusion as to when she would return. Id. She finally returned and was reinstated to her former job, but, she was given a “Final Written Warning” for the confusion of her return to work date and her unprofessional conduct that occurred during one of the phone calls with her employer. Id.
The Kentucky FMLA plaintiff then continues to be late five out of seven work days over the course of the next week. She was late by only a few minutes, but late nonetheless and for that she was finally terminated. So, on June 17, 2011, plaintiff hired a Kentucky FMLA lawyer and filed her FMLA lawsuit in federal court. Id.
A Kentucky FMLA interference claim has to be established by the plaintiff proving 1) she was eligible employee, 2) the defendant was an employer as defined under the FMLA, 3) she was entitled to leave under the FMLA, 4) she gave the employer notice of his intention to take leave, and 5) the defendant denied the employee FMLA benefits to which she was entitled. (cites omitted). The employee seeking relief based on the FMLA interference must establish that the employer’s violation caused them harm. (cites omitted). “Furthermore, no interference is actionable provided that “the employer had a legitimate reason unrelated to the employee’s exercise of FMLA rights for engaging in the challenged conduct,” … such that the challenged conduct “would have occurred regardless of the employee’s request for or taking of FMLA leave.” (cites omitted).
The court then looked to see if plaintiff was retaliated against for invoking her FMLA rights. The Kentucky FMLA plaintiff argued that she was retaliated and that temporal proximity from when she returned and was fired was enough to establish her case.
Though the court was not 100% in accordance with this, it agreed to accept this argument for now allowing the defendant to then give its legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the termination. The defendant did so, arguing that the plaintiff was late on numerous occasions and thus they had a right to terminate her. The plaintiff then had to prove that said claim was pretextual. To this end, the Kentucky FMLA plaintiff could not do so. Thus, plaintiff’s case was dismissed.
If you have been the subject of a Kentucky FMLA case, please call and speak to a Kentucky FMLA lawyer at the Law Offices of Andrew Alitowski, P.A. at 888-ASK-ANDREW (888-275-2637) or contact us. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you are injured…Ask Andrew!!!