FMLA case: Your hands could be tied for years

A federal court has issued an injunction preventing an employer from firing a worker seeking to take FMLA leave until the litigation ends. That could take years.

The case involves an employer’s attendance policies and its institution of disciplinary processes against a young mother who had taken maternity leave and who was being disciplined for taking time off to care for her children.

Recent case: Marla is a teacher. When she became pregnant with triplets, she requested eight weeks of maternity leave starting on her delivery date. That coincided with the beginning of the school year. All in all, she was absent for a little over 60 school days after she gave birth and was treated for postpartum depression.

The next year, she missed 17 school days to care for the triplets when they became ill.

When a new superintendent arrived on the scene, Marla was called into a meeting where her attendance was questioned. She was informed that she had to get someone else to deal with her children even if they became seriously ill.

FMLA Compliance D

Around the same time, school administrators told other teachers that new rules meant they could be disciplined if they missed more than a day of teaching. They heard that maternity leave was “inconvenient” and that absences would not be tolerated.

Then Marla was brought up on discipline. That’s when she sued to stop a scheduled hearing addressing her absences and alleged interference with her right to take FMLA leave.

The court issued an injunction that postponed the hearing so a court could consider her FMLA claims. It said an injunction was necessary to spare her, other teachers, their children and other affected parties from irreparable harm. (Stagliano v. Herkimer Central School District, No. 6:15-CV-1311, ND NY, 2015)