Appeals court rules against employer in suit over FMLA leave


One of the best ways for a New Jersey business to avoid coming out on the wrong end of a court ruling involving employment law and wrongful termination is to be able to prove that its policies and procedures were applied accurately, fairly and uniformly. A business is now finding that out the hard way after a federal appeals court ruled that the company failed to communicate how it was calculating an employee's benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and thus unjustly fired him.

The heart of the matter pertains to how FMLA benefits may be calculated under the appeals court's ruling. One method is based on the fact that employees are eligible for 12 weeks of FMLA leave each calendar year. The other is to calculate an employee's leave backward from the date the employee uses the leave.

In the recently decided case, the company terminated the employee over unexcused absences, based on the company's calculation of when the employee should have returned to work after taking FMLA leave. The employee claimed, however, that he actually had several weeks of leave remaining, based on the more expansive calculation of FMLA benefits.

The court ruled that the company had not clearly informed its employees which method it intended to apply for the purposes of calculating employee leave. As a result, the court ruled that the employee was entitled to damages, which under the FMLA are doubled. That amounts to a total of more than $300,000, factoring in back pay and attorney fees, because of the company's negligence.

Source: Business Insurance, " Employer did not communicate FMLA policy, can't fire worker: Appeals court," Judy Greenwald, Jan. 24, 2012