Court Finds That Employee States Claim For Retaliation Under FMLA

Gregory S. Schaer, a Monmouth County based New Jersey Employment Attorney located in Manalapan, represented the employee in a lawsuit against their employer alleging claims of handicap/perceived handicap discrimination, pregnancy discrimination and retaliation.

In Spagnoli v. Brown and Brown Metro, Inc., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59698, the court held that a former female employee had stated the basis for a claim that she was subjected to retaliation for having taken FMLA leave. The court held that the FMLA prohibits an adverse employment action taken in retaliation for an employee’s use of FMLA. To assert a retaliation claim, an employee must demonstrate that (1) he/she took FMLA leave; (2) he/she suffered adverse employment action; and (3) the adverse action was closely related to the leave.

The court held that when an employee presents direct evidence that her FMLA leave was a substantial factor in the adverse employment action, the burden shifts to the employer to demonstrate that the action would have taken place even if the FMLA leave was not considered in the decision making process. When the burden is shifted, an employer must demonstrate that it would have taken the same action for non-discriminatory reasons.

Thereafter, the employee can demonstrate that the employer’s proffered reason is pretextual and rebutted by either (1) discrediting the reasons circumstantially or directly, or (2) introducing evidence that discrimination was more likely than not a motivating or determinative cause of the action.

The court held that the employee clearly met the first two prongs of the claim for FMLA retaliation by demonstrating that (1) she took FMLA and (2) she was terminated when she returned to work. The court held that in addition there was sufficient evidence that the action was causally related to the leave based upon the fact that (1) the timing of the employee’s termination in that the employee was fired on the day she returned from leave; (2) the employee was the only employee terminated; (3) no documentation that the “restructuring” was planned prior to the employee’s leave; and (4) the inconsistent reasons given for the employee’s termination as set forth in employer’s e-mails.

To speak with an experienced New Jersey Employment Law Attorney, contact the Law Offices of Gregory S. Schaer, LLC, conveniently located in Monmouth County, New Jersey.

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