The problems began in the summer of 2012 when inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration showed up for an unannounced inspection of a mail sorting business. They found asbestos-related violations that resulted in a fine of more than $8,000. Management apparently suspected that a handyman-machine operator there had filed a report with the federal agency and triggered the investigation.
Later that year, the employee needed to have the battery on his pacemaker replaced. Unfortunately, he developed an infection as a result of the procedure and had to ask for a 12-week leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
As he neared the end of his unpaid leave, he learned that his doctor wanted him to stay away from work for an additional week. He informed his employer and requested an extra week of unpaid leave. But he didn’t hear back from his employer about the request.
As the initial 12 weeks was about to end, he again contacted his employer. This time he heard back: he was told his position had been terminated because the company was overstaffed. When he asked for a termination letter he could use to apply for unemployment benefits, he was told that the company considered his departure voluntary because he had not returned to work as planned.
With the help of an employment law attorney, he filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). He also claimed that his firing was retaliatory.
Though a U.S. District Court initially ruled in the employer’s favor, granting summary judgment against the man, a three-judge panel of the appeals court recently reversed the decision. The case now goes back to the District Court.
We don’t know how the case will be decided, but we do know that employees who have been denied rights under the FMLA or ADA can speak with a Milwaukee attorney experienced in employment law litigation.