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FMLA case looks at decision behind woman's firing

Although the Family and Medical Leave Act grants employees in Florida some protections when they need to attend to health problems for themselves or family members, the use of the leave sometimes results in legal disputes. An employee could be fired after returning from a leave, like the plaintiff in a case reviewed in April by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. Under certain circumstances, such an action could be considered retaliation for lawful conduct and a court might assign liability to the employer for damages suffered by the plaintiff.

The panel of judges ruling on the case of a woman demoted and then dismissed after taking an approved leave sided with the former employee. The case revolved around the fact that two lower-level supervisors manipulated the higher-level decision maker who ultimately ended the person's employment.

For an employer to avoid liability for alleged FMLA retaliation, the person making the decision to fire someone should not rely solely on information from lower-level direct supervisors because they could be expressing unreasonable opinions about the employee. The decision maker should investigate the matter directly and obtain documented and objective evidence about a person's ability to perform a job and then base a decision on that information.

Despite legal protections for employees, people commonly experience hostile work environments when they try to exercise their lawful rights. People who have been retaliated against after requesting or taking FMLA leave may want to meet with an employment law attorney in order to see what recourse they might have.

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