Case name: DeGraw v. Exide Technologies, No. 09-4016-RDR (D. Kan. 10/13/10).
Ruling: The U.S. District Court, District of Kansas granted summary judgment to a battery manufacturer on a material handler's Family and Medical Leave Act and workers' compensation claims.
What it means:
In Kansas, when an employer relies on its doctor's recommendation not to allow an employee to work, the employee may establish a jury question regarding retaliation by showing weakness, inconsistency, or implausibility in the employer's reliance on the recommendation. It is not contrary to the FMLA to place an employee on involuntary leave status.
Summary: A material handler for a battery manufacturer had a history of back pain related to a series of nonwork-related accidents. Due to pain, he saw several doctors. Ultimately, a doctor for the manufacturer placed restrictions on the handler that prevented him from doing his job. Because no other jobs were available for him, the manufacturer terminated him after he had used all of his FMLA leave. He sued under the FMLA and state workers' compensation law. The U.S. District Court, District of Kansas granted summary judgment to the manufacturer.
The handler claimed that he was terminated because he sustained a workplace injury and might file a workers' compensation claim. The court disagreed, explaining that the manufacturer's reliance on its doctor's restrictions on the handler did not show pretext for retaliation or discrimination. Though the insurance company's doctor concluded that the handler could perform his job, this only showed a disagreement. It did not suggest that the manufacturer's reliance on its doctor's opinion was so implausible or inconsistent that a reasonable jury could find that the manufacturer used the opinion as pretext.
The handler also argued that he was placed on involuntary leave by not being allowed to return to work and that the leave interfered with his FMLA rights. The court rejected that argument, reasoning that there was no cause of action under the FMLA for forcing an employee to take leave. The court noted that the manufacturer did not deny any of his FMLA leave requests.
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January 10, 2011
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