Florida Employers Take Note....Eleventh Circuit Holds Pre-Eligibility Notice of Post-Eligibility Leave Is Protected Activity Under FMLA
1 year ago
In a case of first impression, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (the “Court”) has held that the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) protects employees’ pre-eligibility requests for post-eligibility leave. The case, Pereda v. Brookdale Senior Living Communities, Inc., ---- F. 3d -----, 2012 WL 43271 (11th Cir. Jan. 10, 2012), should provide guidance to Florida employers dealing with the question of whether an employee is engaging in “protected activity” under the FMLA.
In June 2009, Kathryn Pereda informed her employer that she was pregnant and would be requesting FMLA leave after the birth of her baby on or about November 30, 2009. Pereda alleged that, after communicating her plans to take FMLA leave, Brookdale began harassing her, disparaged her job performance and placed her on a performance improvement plan with unattainable goals. Pereda alleged that the harassment caused her stress and complications with her pregnancy. After taking medical leave to treat these complications, Brookdale terminated her employment.
Pereda brought suit against Brookdale in the Southern District of Florida, alleging interference and retaliation under the FMLA. Brookdale moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim under FRCP 12(b)(6). The district court dismissed the complaint, holding that 1) Brookdale could not have interfered with Pereda’s FMLA rights because Pereda was not entitled to FMLA leave at the time she requested it, and 2) Brookdale did not retaliate against Pereda because she did not engage in “protected activity” under the FMLA. Pereda appealed her case to the Court. At issue was whether a pre-eligibility request for post-eligibility leave is a “protected activity” under the FMLA.
The Court reversed the decision and remanded the case back to the district court. The Court held that, because the FMLA requires notice in advance of future leave, employees are protected from interference prior to the occurrence of a triggering event, such as the birth of a child. Noting that it would be illogical to subject an employee to interference and retaliation for complying with the notice requirement, the Court held that the FMLA must necessarily protect pre-eligible employees who put their employers on notice of their post-eligibility leave requests. Therefore, Pereda engaged in “protected activity” under the FMLA when she informed Brookdale of her anticipated maternity leave, and she could state a claim of interference of her FMLA rights. In addition, because Pereda alleged she suffered harassment as a result of engaging in “protected activity,” the Court held that she could state a claim of retaliation under the FMLA.
You can read a copy of the Court’s opinion here.
Categories: Labor and Employment, Litigation, Federal Law, Federal Courts
Tags: Public Employees, Employment Agreements, Public Employers, Collective Bargaining, Jamie A. Cole, Edward G. Guedes, Michael S. Popok, Brett J. Schneider, Joseph H. Serota, Fort Lauderdale Business Litigation Attorneys, Fort Lauderdale Business Litigation Lawyers, South Florida Business Dispute Litigation Attorneys, South Florida Business Dispute Litigation Lawyers, Matthew H. Mandel, Fort Lauderdale Litigators, Miami Litigators, South Florida Litigators, Fort Lauderdale Employment Law Attorneys, Miami Employment Law Attorneys, South Florida Employment Law Attorneys, Fort Lauderdale Labor Law Attorneys, Miami Labor Law Attorneys, South Florida Labor Law Attorneys, Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Family Medical Leave Act, Protected Activity, Florida Commercial Litigation Lawyer, Florida Employment Attorneys, Florida Labor Lawyers, Florida Litigation Attorneys, Fort Lauderdale Civil Litigation Attorneys, Fort Lauderdale Commercial Litigation Attorneys, Fort Lauderdale Commercial Litigation Attorneys, Fort Lauderdale Employment Lawyer, Fort Lauderdale Employment Lawyer, Miami Commercial Litigation Attorney, Miami Employment Attorney, Miami Employment Attorney, Miami Labor Lawyer, Miami Litigation Attorney, South Florida Employment Lawyers
Author(s): Brett J. Schneider & Brooke P. Dolara