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Jury verdict for employer in FMLA retaliation suit vacated

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A U.S. District Court erred in requiring a plaintiff in a Family Medical Leave Act case to provide direct evidence of retaliation, says a federal appeals court in vacating a jury verdict for his employer.

Joseph Egan worked for the Delaware River Port Authority in Camden, New Jersey, from July 2008 until October 2012, according to Tuesday’s ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia in Joseph Egan v. Delaware River Port Authority.

Mr. Egan began suffering from migraine headaches after a 1995 accident that increased following an April 2012 transfer, according to the ruling. 

 He submitted a request for intermittent FMLA leave, which the authority approved, although it later appeared it was causing a hardship in his department, according to the ruling. He was terminated in October 2012.

Mr. Egan filed suit, alleging violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the FMLA. A jury in U.S. District Court in Reading, Pennsylvania, returned a verdict for the Port Authority on all counts, and Mr. Egan appealed.

The District Court erred in requiring Mr. Egan to provide direct evidence of retaliation in this “mixed motive” case, said a unanimous three-judge appeals court panel.

Rather, “the court shod have determined whether there was evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that the Port Authority had legitimate and illegitimate reasons for its employment decision and that Egan’s use of FMLA leave was a negative factor in the employment decision,” said the appeals court, in vacating the FMLA judgment in favor of the Port Authority and remanding the case.