The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently reversed a lower court decision in favor of the employer on an issue involving rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In Clements v Prudential Protective Services, LLC, the Court found that the employer’s failure to inform a pregnant employee of her FMLA rights, and to reinstate her to either her former position or to an equivalent position after her leave, wrongfully interfered with her rights under the FMLA. Telitha Clements was hired by Prudential Protective Services as a security guard in 2006 and worked at the New Center, Fisher and Kahn buildings in Detroit, Michigan. Throughout her employment, she had one supervisor, Lamont Lively. In 2008, Clements became pregnant with her second child, whom she gave birth to in June 2009. She gave Lively notice of her pregnancy, and her last day at work before her leave was May 23, 2009. Lively told Clements to contact him when she was ready to return to work, and he would put her back on schedule. Although Lively later claimed that Clements needed to contact the main office to properly schedule her maternity leave, neither Clements nor Lively contacted the main office. Neither Clements nor Lively filled out any paperwork, either. Clements was not paid for any part of her time off.
Clements tried several times to contact Lively in early July 2009, an estimated six weeks after her maternity leave began, to request to be returned to the schedule. She could not reach him due to his leave of absence to deal with a personal matter. Instead, a woman named “Sabrina” relayed messages between Clements and Lively. Lively told Sabrina to inform Clements that the number of hours scheduled for security guards at the complex had been scaled back due to a lack of business and that Lively could not return Clements to the schedule at that time. While Lively claimed later that he directed Clements to report to the main office for an assignment at another site, Clements stated that she never received the information.
Clements visited the main office on August 24, 2009, only to receive a letter stating that she was currently laid off and that when a position became available, she would be called back to work. Clements met with the vice president of operations, who told her that she was not laid off because she could still find an available job at other sites. However, Clements was never offered another position. Clements made repeated calls to Lively on a weekly basis until October 2009 but was never returned to work at the New Center Complex. Finally, Clements filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in February 2010 and received a right-to-sue letter in May 2011. Clements then filed a lawsuit in July 2011, claiming her employer violated the FMLA. The trial court issued a summary judgment ruling in favor of the employer, and Clements appealed.
The Sixth Circuit found that while Clements may not have followed the reporting procedures specified by the FMLA, but that was largely due to the fact that the employer had no established reporting procedures. One vice president admitted that the hierarchy of the reporting system was “kind of loose.” The Court stated that Clements should have been informed of what procedure to follow after her maternity leave and that there were genuine issues of fact as to whether Clements had been laid off, in violation of the FMLA. The Sixth Circuit, therefore, reversed and remanded the case back to trial court level, so that it could be reheard.
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