If an employee uses up all of his FMLA leave, can he sue a Florida company for firing him when he cannot return to work?
Asked another way, can a Florida company fire a worker if they cannot work after they used up all 12 weeks of their leave under the Family Medical Leave Act?
It depends. The following is a recent case that can illustrate this situation.
An employee needed leave from work due to a stress-anxiety disorder. The employer provided the full 12 weeks of leave required under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). However, approximately six weeks after the employee returned to work, he collapsed at work because of his condition and was hospitalized. The employee notified the employer of his status and submitted leave paperwork detailing his condition, initially requesting an approximate 3-month leave of absence.
Firing an employee after they exhausted FMLA leave?
In 2018 the employer agreed to settle the lawsuit by agreeing to a consent decree, where it will pay $140,000 to the employee, and will all train supervisory and human resources employees on the requirements of the ADA.
This is a case where the employee only requested three weeks of leave more than what the employer had agreed to. Under the ADA, assuming the employee was a qualified individual, the employer would have the burden of showing that the additional three weeks of leave requested was an undue hardship to accommodate. This case is an example to Florida employers that the EEOC will use the weight and power of the federal government to sue lesser known businesses and smaller companies. Florida business owners should realize that the EEOC does not only sue large, national companies.
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The employer waited two weeks to respond to the employee’s request and when it did, it advised the employee that he had to return to work without restrictions within three weeks, or request non-medical leave. Approximately two weeks later, the employee submitted leave paperwork, including a doctor’s note, indicating that he would need leave for five more weeks. Seven days after receiving that doctor’s note, the Employer denied the extension of leave beyond five days and advised that the employee’s employment would be terminated if he was not released for work in five days. When the employee did not return to work in five days, the employer sent him a letter telling him that his employment had been terminated.
The EEOC issued a Determination finding reasonable cause to believe that the
ADA was violated. When the EEOC was unable to get the business to agree to a settlement /conciliation agreement acceptable to the EEOC, the EEOC filed a lawsuit in federal court against the business. EEOC v. Greektown Casino, L.L.C., Case No. 2:16-CV-13540.
The EEOC alleged that the company’s actions were done intentionally to discriminate against the employee based on his disability.
The employee did not complain that the employer violated the FMLA. Rather, the employee filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging that the employer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it fired him because of his disability (stress-anxiety disorder). The EEOC concluded that such alleged conduct violates the ADA, which mandates that covered employers provide reasonable accommodations for the known disabilities of employees.