Sick worker's FMLA lawsuit reinstated on appealReprints
An appeals court has reinstated Family Leave and Medical Act interference and retaliation charges filed by a worker who was terminated after he requested leave for his congestive heart failure.
Alan Demyanovich, an employee of more than 20 years of Wyandotte, Mich.-based automotive firm Cadon Plating & Coatings L.L.C., had taken FMLA leave for health issues several times over the years, according to Friday's ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in Alan Demyanovich v. Cadon Plating & Coatings L.L.C. et al.
In February 2010, he again asked for leave, but his request was denied by the company's vice president because the executive believed the firm did not have the minimum 50 employees needed to have the firm become subject to the act, according to the ruling. Mr. Demyanovich claimed the vice president also told him he was a “liability.” His employment was terminated shortly thereafter.
Mr. Demyanovich filed suit against the company, charging it with interfering with his FMLA rights, retaliation under the FMLA and disability discrimination under both federal and state law.
The U.S. District Court in Detroit dismissed all the charges, stating, among other factors, that there was a question as to whether Cadon is covered by the FMLA and that Mr. Demyanovich was not an eligible employee under the act because he could not show he would have been able to work at the end of the 12-week FMLA leave period.
The lower court also said Mr. Demyanovich had failed to create a genuine issue of material fact regarding his FMLA retaliation claim.
Mr. Demyanovich appealed the ruling.
In reinstating the case, a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit unanimously said that although Cadon had less than 50 employees, it is covered under FMLA because it is an “integrated employer” with Utica, Mich.-based MNP Corp., with whom it shares several common managers.
The court also held that “although there is ample evidence that Demyanovich might have had difficulty returning to work” within 12 weeks of his Feb. 23 requested formal leave, “it is not indisputable that he would have been unable to do so.”
“Because we find sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that Cadon interfered with Demyanovich's right to FMLA leave without a legitimate reason for doing so, we reverse the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Cadon as to the FMLA interference claim,” said the appeals court.
On the retaliation claim, pointing to the vice president's statement that Mr. Demyanovich was a liability immediately after his FMLA leave request, the panel said he has “presented sufficient evidence from which a jury could conclude that he was terminated in retaliation for requesting FMLA leave.”
The court also held there was sufficient evidence in the record for which a reasonable jury could conclude Cadon had discriminated against Mr. Demyanovich on the basis of his disability in violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and Michigan's Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act.
The case was remanded to the lower court for further proceedings.