In Cuff v. Trans State Holdings, Inc., a Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA“) case, the Seventh Circuit recently awarded the employee, Cuff, $331,000 in attorneys’ fees, costs and interest even though Cuff’s damages were only $43,000. The Court’s justification for such remedies was that, “the defense had not done its homework; it was content to leave the labor to Cuff’s team and the judge … for issue after issue.” The main issue in this case was that workers are covered by the FMLA when they are jointly employed by multiple firms that collectively have 50 or more workers, and that firms may be treated as a single employer when they operate a joint business. There were several indicators that Cuff worked for both operations. Cuff was the “regional manager” of the three firms and his business card bore the logos of all three firms. Moreover, Cuff had been hired to provide services to both air carriers.
Wisconsin’s Family and Medical Leave law is a bit different. The 50 employee count under Wisconsin law has no geographical limitation. In other words, the 50-employee threshold is based on the number of employees that the employer has at all locations.