When your employer illegally interferes with your rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or retaliates against you for invoking those rights, you may be entitled to seek a civil judgment and recover compensation based on those violations. Winning an FMLA interference claim or FMLA retaliation claim requires a lot of things, including in-depth knowledge of the law, proper awareness of (and compliance with) all the rules of procedure, and excellent skill at making the necessary allegations and arguments to get your case past your employer’s motion for summary judgment or motion to dismiss. In other words, the best chance of success lies in retaining a skilled Atlanta FMLA lawyer.
A recent FMLA ruling by the federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeal (whose rulings control federal cases in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama,) highlights the profound risks (and high-stakes downsides) that can come with taking on your case without counsel.
S.N. worked for a cancer treatment center. Sometime before October 2019, S.N. allegedly sought (and the employer approved) a period of FMLA leave. The employer subsequently terminated S.N.’s employment, according to her federal court complaint.
There are two possible forms of statutory violations upon which you can win an FMLA case. One is what the law calls “interference, which is something where your employer in some way impaired your use of your statutory rights under the FMLA.
What Interference Looks Like
A successful interference claim involves properly detailed allegations that (1) you were entitled to FMLA leave, (2) that you gave your employer proper notice, (3) that your employer took some form of action that was harmful to you, and (4) that the adverse action was tied to your FMLA leave (or leave request.)
Examples of FMLA interference can include things like an employer wrongfully denying an employee’s valid FMLA leave request, discouraging an eligible employee from requesting or taking FMLA leave, counting your approved FMLA absence(s) against you under your employer’s “no-fault” or “occurrence-based” attendance policy, or counting your use of FMLA leave against you for purposes of employment actions like promotions.
FMLA retaliation involves properly pled allegations that you were entitled to leave and that your FMLA leave (or leave request) caused your employer to take adverse action against you.
Even though the courts generally will “construe liberally” a self-represented litigant’s pleadings, judges still will demand that you comply with all applicable procedural rules. That includes holding it against you if you fail to raise an issue in the trial court and subsequently bring it up for the first time on appeal, or denying you the right to argue an issue on appeal because you neglected to “raise it prominently in an opening appellate brief.”
That’s what happened to S.N. She proceeded without legal counsel and her employer exploited the gaps in her court papers by making a motion for summary judgment. The district court gave her an opportunity to defeat that motion, but the paperwork she filed was not responsive to the employer’s arguments. Subsequently, her paperwork with the appeals court also had fatal problems, such as neglecting “to challenge on appeal several of the district court’s findings supporting summary judgment.”
Those shortcomings ultimately led the appeals court to uphold the ruling for the employer, meaning that the employee’s procedural and litigation shortcomings prevented her case from ever getting to a jury.
If you have questions about your FMLA rights or you think your employer committed an FMLA violation that harmed you, don’t try to tackle the court system on your own. Instead, reach out to the knowledgeable Atlanta FMLA litigation attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert. We’ve helped countless other Georgia workers harmed in circumstances much like yours, and we’re eager to discuss ways in which we may be able to help you. Contact us through this website or at 404-873-8048 to schedule a consultation.