A jury found that a city employee who was not rehired after his use of leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regulations presented sufficient evidence of a retaliatory motive, awarding him $56,000 for lost compensation and $25,000 for emotional distress. The judgment in favor of the former employee was affirmed by the Eighth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals.
Requirements of the FMLA
Under FMLA regulations, eligible employees are entitled to take leave from work for certain family or medical reasons, including a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of his or her position. The FMLA prohibits employers from discriminating or “retaliating” against an employee for asserting rights under the Act. Therefore, an employer may not consider an employee’s use of FMLA leave as a negative factor in an employment action.
Evidence Examined on Appeal
On appeal, the city argued that it had legitimate reasons for not rehiring the employee: that interview procedures were not followed and that other candidates had better diagnostic and computer skills.
However, the Court of Appeals found that Hot Springs posted a job description that did not include computer skills as a job qualification or requirement. Moreover, a supervisor’s reasons for not re-interviewing the employee in January changed from the reasons that he provided for not rehiring the individual in October. More importantly, the Court held that this change in reasoning provides support for a jury finding that discredits Hot Springs’ reasons for not rehiring the city employee.