Federal Appeals Court upholds Family Medical Leave
When Rosalyn Grace was hospitalized with asthma and did not get back to work for several weeks, she thought her job was protected by the FMLA. The automotive industry, relying on "staffing agencies" as insulation, fired this 8 year employee. While the Trial Court upheld the firing, the Court of Appeals reversed and reinstated her.
Grace was the IT Manager for the general partnership formed by GM, Ford and Daimler-Chrysler to jointly facilitate research and development. She was hospitalized from November 17 to November 26 with complications from asthma, but expected to return from unpaid leave on January 3. On December 30 she was informed that her position was terminated ("Seasons Greetings"). When she attempted to exercise her rights under the FMLA to return to work, within 12 weeks, she was again rebuffed, with the employers claiming that they had restructured the agency and eliminated her position. ("Just a coincidence.")
Grace filed suit but her case was dismissed. The lower court even threw out her state court claims that had not been heard, concluding among other things, that the staffing agency Bartech had assumed that role as her "true" FMLA employer only 11 months ago, so Grace did not qualify for for FMLA by reason of a year of service with her employer.
The Sixth Circuit reversed, exercising common sense to enforce the provisions and intent of the FMLA. It pointed out that under Federal law, the staffing agency worked on behalf of USCAR and Grace's eight years of service to USCAR made her eligible for FMLA. The Court also noted that she had put forward sufficient evidence to claim a jury trial on the issue of whether the "restructuring" of the IT Department was mere pretext to camouflage her dismissal.