FMLA Interference and Retaliation Case Sustained by Florida Federal Court

Federal laws protect injured workers whose medical conditions prohibit them from performing job duties. In a recent case, the plaintiff worked as a training manager in a chain of restaurants owned by the defendant. While employed, the plaintiff suffered a workplace accident in which his knee was injured. After seeking treatment with his physician, the plaintiff was restricted from certain duties at work. The plaintiff’s doctor also classified his knee injury as a “serious medical condition.” As a result of the injury, the plaintiff sought workers’ compensation benefits.

After the plaintiff informed his supervisor of his health condition, he was allegedly informed that he could return to work after taking leave to receive medical treatment. However, the plaintiff was terminated instead. According to the plaintiff, he was never notified that he could take leave pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). The plaintiff subsequently brought a lawsuit against his employer, alleging interference with FMLA rights and retaliation.

After the employer sought to have the plaintiff’s claims dismissed in Armstrong v. Doherty Florida North Port, LLC, the federal court analyzed the facts of the case under the applicable laws. In accordance with the FMLA, an employee may take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave as a result of a serious medical condition that makes the performance of work duties impossible. Significantly, an employee may make a claim for interference or retaliation associated with his or her FMLA rights. In order to do so, an employee must show that that he or she has been denied an available right under the FMLA. In a retaliation case, the employee must show that he or she suffered an adverse employment action because he or she engaged in FMLA protected activity.

In determining whether or not to grant a motion to dismiss, the court recognized that factual allegations must be construed in the light most favorable to the claimant. However, those allegations must do more than just speculate. The claims must point to a defined right to relief.

In order to state a claim for FMLA interference or retaliation, a claimant must provide sufficient information to set forth entitlement to relief in the complaint. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure merely require plaintiffs to make a short and basic explanation of their case. In this case, the court held that the plaintiff was not required to specify the date on which he informed his supervisor of his health condition. Similarly, the court found it unnecessary for the plaintiff to specifically identify his supervisor’s employer on the date of the report.

At the outset of a case, the plaintiff must only provide sufficient notice of the FMLA claims he or she is asserting against the defendant, according to the court. Specific questions of fact are best determined through the discovery process. Given the legal standard required for a motion to dismiss, and the regard given to the plaintiff’s allegations, the court held that dismissal of the claims would be inappropriate.

If you have experienced a limitation on your rights in the workplace, the Southwest Florida employment attorneys at Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano will fight for you. Our legal team is experienced in litigating discrimination cases, claims of retaliation, and wage disputes, in addition to other employment matters. To speak with an attorney today, contact us or call toll-free at (800) 238-7442.

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