Warning! One firing can bring many lawsuits

Just because you win one of several lawsuits over a termination, that doesn’t mean remaining matters will be automatically dismissed. It may not matter that one judicial decision might support your stated reason for firing the employee.

Recent case: Adrian’s employer let him telecommute for substantial periods of time. He took FMLA leave to have an operation and recover from it. When he told his employer he was ready to return to work, he asked to continue working from home. The employer insisted Adrian work half-days in the office because, it said, he was “more productive” there.

Adrian then posted a scathing employer review on Glassdoor.com. He wrote, “If you’re not family-oriented white or Asian straight or mainstream gay person with 1.7 kids who really likes softball—then you’ll likely find yourself on the outside. Treatment in the workplace, in terms of who gets flexible hours, interesting projects, praise, promotions, and a big yearly raise, is different and seems to run right along these characteristics.”

Within days of returning to work after FMLA leave, Adrian was called into the office to discuss the review—and he was fired.

Adrian filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that he had been fired for complaining about working conditions. Ultimately, that matter was dismissed, even though a judge acknowledged in the decision that Adrian was fired for the posting.

The employer then sought to dismiss an FMLA retaliation lawsuit Adrian also had in the works. It argued that it had already been judicially decided that Adrian had been fired over the posting.

The court refused to toss out the suit, reasoning that people can be fired for numerous reasons, all of which may be subject to litigation. (Duane v. IXL Learning, ND CA, 2017)