Michigan Court refuses to hear FMLA and Disabilities' Civil Rights Act claim
Judge Elizabeth Gleicher wrote a strong dissent after her Court refused to hear Daniel Dobrowski's civil rights wrongful discharge claim. An epileptic, Dobrowski argued that he was wrongfully terminated for making a Family Medical Leave Act claim. Because part of his lawsuit (the FMLA claim) sounded in federal law, the case was transferred to the Federal Court system. The judge hearing preliminary matters concluded that Dobrowski wasn't qualified for FMLA protections, and in any event that the employer had presented a legitimate non-discriminatory ground for terminating him. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit didn't reach the latter defense as it agreed that Dobrowski wasn't protected under the FMLA.
After the conclusion of the federal appeal, Dobrowski attempted to pursue his state law rights in Wayne County Circuit Court, however, the judges hearing his claim, with the exception of Judge Gleicher, determined that he was "collaterally estopped" to raise the disability discrimination claim because it had been rejected by the Federal trial judge. Judge Gleicher pointed out, however, that the trial judge's decision on that point was not necessary to the outcome of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling, and since appeals are an essential part of a "decision on the merits," Dobrowski had not had "his day in court" on that issue. She pointed to long-standing Michigan cases that established Dobrowski's right to pursue his disability claim through to a full procedural culmination: otherwise, giving final effect to a decision without a right of appeal constitutes a violation of due process.