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Third Circuit holds that an employer’s honest belief that its employee was misusing FMLA leave mandates dismissal of his FMLA retaliation claim.

April 1, 2017
Capps v. Mondelez Global, LLC, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 1593 (Jan. 30, 2017)

The Third Circuit upheld the dismissal of the plaintiff’s FMLA retaliation claim, finding that the plaintiff could not demonstrate that his termination was pretextual in light of the employer’s honest belief that the plaintiff misused his FMLA. The plaintiff applied for FMLA leave, that was necessitated due to a hip replacement surgery, and then took intermittent leave for pain in his hips. The plaintiff utilized this FMLA leave for approximately 10 years without incident. On February 14, 2013, following a traffic stop where the plaintiff’s blood alcohol level was more than four times the legal limit, the plaintiff was arrested and charged with driving under the influence. The plaintiff, who had used FMLA leave that day (and then the following day), returned to work the next week but never advised his employer of his arrest or subsequent conviction. Several months later, the employer received an anonymous tip regarding the plaintiff’s arrest. Upon investigation, the employer believed that the plaintiff had used FMLA leave for absences related to his DUI charges and subsequent court dates. Based upon this information, the plaintiff was suspended and ultimately terminated from his employment. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the employer was mistaken in its belief that he plaintiff misused his FMLA based upon its review of the criminal docket. The Third Circuit, however, noted that, regardless of whether the employer was mistaken, “there is a lack of evidence indicating that [the employer] did not honestly hold that belief [that plaintiff misused his FMLA leave].”


Case Law Alerts, 2nd Quarter, April 2017

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