Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Justice Can Be Idiotic

From the news archive of the Richmond, Virginia, based law firm of McGuireWoods:
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals late last month ruled that an employee whose job was eliminated during a corporate consolidation while he was on leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) did not have the right to be reinstated when his position would have been eliminated anyway even if he had not been on FMLA leave.

The plaintiff . . . had a history of numerous approved medical leaves, including FMLA leave. Hired in 1994 and promoted in 1999, he took his last leave in 2003. While on leave, the defendant employer advised the employee that his position was to be eliminated as part of a consolidation. The defendant encouraged him to apply for the jobs newly created by the consolidation, as well as other available positions. The plaintiff decided not to apply and was terminated upon his return from FMLA leave. The plaintiff sued, and the district court granted summary judgment for the employer.

The Fourth Circuit affirmed. . . .
The McGuireWoods release goes on to say that
. . . the court held that FMLA does not create any right to restoration. The court held that employees are not entitled to return to their former position when the employer “would have discharged the employee in any event regardless of the leave.” In reaching its decision, the court reasoned that allowing for guaranteed restoration would create unreasonable results, such as requiring employers to retain employees who performed inadequately prior to taking their leave. . . . A circuit split remains on the issue.
In sum, your employer tells you that you're going to be fired. Instead of accepting your employer's help in finding a new job, you take leave. You then sue the employer when you are fired. And some courts rule in your favor. Idiotic.

The district court did the right thing in granting summary judgment to the employer. The Fourth Circuit did the right thing in affirming the summary judgment. But at least one other circuit, ruling in parallel case(s), has found for the employee(s). So it's up to the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve the split. And until it does, federal courts outside the Fourth Circuit will be able to rule in favor of employees in such cases. Idiotic.