ERIC State Monthly eNewsletter Features Health Employment and Labor Blog Post “Employee Laid Off Six Weeks After Taking Medical Leave Fails to Show Reassignment to ‘Sham Position;’ FMLA Claims Dismissed”ERIC State Monthly eNewsletter July 5, 2017
ERIC State Monthly eNewsletter featured “Employee Laid Off Six Weeks After Taking Medical Leave Fails to Show Reassignment to ‘Sham Position;’ FMLA Claims Dismissed,” a post on Epstein Becker Green’s Health Employment and Labor blog, authored by Nathaniel M. Glasser, Member of the Firm, and Sean P. Winker, a Summer Associate, in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s Washington, DC, office.
Following is an excerpt:
What obligations does an employer have to an employee returning from leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?
What must the employer do if it was forced to fill that employee’s position during the employee’s absence?
How long after the employee returns must the employer wait before taking an adverse action against that employee?
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently provided guidance to employers who frequently face these questions in the context of FMLA administration. In Waag v. Sotera Defense Solutions, Inc., the employer, Sotera, filled the position of an employee, Gary Waag, while he was out on FMLA leave, and assigned Waag to a different position when he returned. Less than six weeks later, Sotera laid off Waag in a workforce reduction. Waag filed suit claiming FMLA interference and retaliation. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the case, holding that Sotera was not required to return Waag to his original position and that Sotera reassigned him to a bona fide equivalent position, not a “sham position” meant to mask a discriminatory or retaliatory reason for his termination. Most importantly, the court held that the “temporal proximity” of six weeks’ time between Waag’s return from medical leave and his termination was insufficient by itself for him to succeed on his FMLA interference claim.