Don't HR Alone #8 - The Keys to FMLA- Light Duty, Pretext, and Retaliation

Nurse fired for violating dual employment policy while on extended leave can’t advance FMLA claims

A nurse who was granted extended medical leave after her FMLA leave expired but was discharged when the hospital learned that she violated the leave policy’s prohibition against dual employment by working elsewhere without permission failed to defeat summary judgment on her FMLA interference and retaliation claims. A federal court in Maryland determined that the hospital’s denial of light duty did not constitute FMLA interference, she could not have reasonably considered herself to have been terminated at that point, and she failed to present evidence suggesting the decision to fire her due to her dual employment while on leave was pretextual.

FMLA leave for birth of child. The nurse applied for and was granted a 12-week FMLA leave, from August 6 to October 29, 2012, in anticipation of her child’s birth in August. However, she experienced pregnancy complications, was placed on bed rest, and told that her delivery date might be moved to May. She amended her FMLA request to reflect a leave period of March 23 to June 15, which was approved, and she gave birth prematurely by cesarean section on May 12.

Extended leave. Her supervisor sent her a letter on June 5, prior to the expiration of her FMLA leave, offering her the opportunity to apply for extended leave under the hospital’s leave policy, which provided coverage for medical and dental insurance during the leave period. The nurse completed a leave request form on June 9, in which she acknowledged that she reviewed and understood the contents of the policy. On June 13, her supervisor approved her leave request.