According to a recent Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion reported by Bloomberg BNA, a Michigan road county commission employee terminated from his job for failing to timely complete work assignments can pursue claims that the commission violated protections of the federal Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) even though he wasn’t eligible for such protections.
The Court held that although the employee technically wasn’t covered by the FMLA (the road commission did not employ the threshold number of 50 employees at or within 75 miles of the work site), the employee’s reasonable belief that he was nonetheless covered based on representations made in his employer’s handbook was enough to bar the employer from later challenging his FMLA claim.
The plaintiff, an 18-year veteran of the Kalamazoo County Road Commission, was issued several reprimands in 2011 for failing to meet deadlines for various assignments, which he claimed he was prevented from completing due to unfair directions from his supervisor to revise the submissions. After receiving a final warning in July 2011, the plaintiff experienced symptoms of a heart attack that kept him from meeting an upcoming deadline.
Relying on representations made in the commission’s employee handbook that he was covered under the FMLA and seeking to comply with notice requirements, the plaintiff – through his wife – informed the commission that he would be unable to return to work for several days at least. The commission then confirmed that he was eligible for FMLA leave, but fired him a few days later on the grounds that he failed to timely and satisfactorily submit his assignment.
Remanding the case to the trial court, the Sixth Circuit panel held that, because the commission itself determined that the plaintiff was eligible for FMLA benefits, it was “in no position to argue that [he] acted unreasonably in reaching the same conclusion.”
If you or someone you know has been a victim of workplace discrimination or retaliation, or unfairly denied employment benefits, the law gives you only a limited amount of time to preserve and pursue your rights. Please contact the attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Employment Litigation Group today to discuss your situation.