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Employee's race discrimination claim dismissed; FMLA claim needs further development

In Romans v. Mich Dep't of Human Serv, the plaintiff was dismissed from the WJ Maxey Boys Training Center and filed a wrongful discharge suit.  He claimed that he was the victim of racial discrimination and that he was fired, in part, for exercising rights under the Family Medical Leave Act.

With regard to the former claim, he cited the historical attempt to maintain a staff that mirrored the correction center population, i.e., 80% black, as proof that he was mis-treated because he was white.  The Court noted that race appeared to play no role in the disciplinary actions taken against Romans and that there was ample foundation for his supervisors' actions.  With regard to the FMLA claim, however, the Court sent the case back for further development.

The apellate judges pointed out that Romans insisted on leaving, rather than pulling a double shift, because he had been informed of his mother's hospitalization and potentially her impending death.  Romans claimed that he needed to attend to his mother's needs despite the fact that his sister was already present at the hospital.  The lower court had suggested that the sister's presence obviated any FMLA basis for refusing to cover the back-to-back shift when a replacement did not show up:  on appeal the higher court held that Romans had raised a valid FMLA claim despite the sister's presence at the hospital.

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