Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

Saturday, May 15, 2010

EDMich: Timing of discharge, stack of work raised fact questions in FMLA case

A marketing communications specialist discharged on the day she returned from FMLA leave may go forward with her interference and reprisal claims under the Act. After dismal holiday sales in 2007, Sysco decided to cut staff, including the specialist’s position. On the day the specialist returned from FMLA leave, she was told that her employment was terminated. The employee alleged she was fired because she took FMLA leave for the birth of her daughter. Sysco argued that due to dismal holiday sales it needed to reduce its workforce, and that the majority of the specialist’s duties had been outsourced, necessitating the elimination of her position. However, the record revealed that the employee returned to a stack of work after returning from leave and a coworker reported that the company was very busy in her absence. Consequently, triable issues existed as to whether the employee’s discharge would have occurred regardless of her taking FMLA leave. In so ruling, the court relied on the timing of the decision to terminate the employee, the lack of documentary support that Sysco would save money by eliminating her position, and the evidence that her workload and duties had not diminished at the time of her FMLA leave (Mastin v Sysco Food Servs of Detroit LLC, March 24, 2010).

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

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