Worker With ‘Crying Spells’ After Daughter Was Raped Can Bring FMLA Claim

It’s not easy to juggle the demands of work and family life. What happens if a family member gets sick or if you or your spouse need to take time off to care for your new baby? What options exist? In some situations, an employer may have short or long-term disability policies that give you time off from work and pay you. But not all employers offer these benefits. Further you may have to meet stringent requirements showing that you are totally disabled from your job or from other types of work. In other situations, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may protect you. The FMLA is a federal employment law that allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from their jobs annually in the following circumstances:

• For your own serious health condition;
• To care for your family members who have a serious health condition; and • For the birth or care of a newborn or adopted child.

If you have questions about the FMLA or when you may be allowed to take leave, it is important to consult with an experienced Atlanta employment attorney right away.

The FMLA also protects you against retaliation. If your employer retaliats against you for taking FMLA leave, or even simply for asking for leave, you may have a claim for FMLA retaliation.

A recent case Nelson v. Clermont Cnty. Veterans Serv. Comm’n, looked at when an employee – Kristan Nelson – may be allowed to take time off to care for a family member in crisis. In this situation the worker’s teenaged daughter was raped. Following the incident, the employee became extremely distraught and suffered “crying spells.” She requested time off pursuant to the FMLA, which was granted. However, shortly after she returned she was fired. The county agency claimed that she was fired because of “declining job performance” and alleged manipulation of records. Nelson responded that her termination was “pretextual” [i.e. an excuse].

On review the Court made two important determinations. First, the court determined that it was indeed possible that a jury could find that the reasons Nelson’s employer made for firing her were really an excuse, and that the real reason was in retaliation for her taking leave. Such retaliation would be illegal and violate the FMLA.

Further, in making this determination, the court said Nelson raised good legal arguments by showing that the commission didn’t follow it own procedures and as a result, failed to make a “reasonably informed and considered decision.”

The FMLA fills an important void when you need to take leave to care for yourself or a family member. Denying you leave – or retaliating against you for taking leave – may be a violation of federal law. For more information or if you have questions concerning leave, please contact the dedicated Atlanta family and medical leave attorneys at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.