Worker fired after asthma attack makes FMLA retaliation claim

The Family and Medical Leave Act protects the jobs of some workers in Arizona when they need time off because of medical problems. A recent case against a wholesale food distribution company illustrates the importance of timing when an employee makes a claim of interference with rights to family leave and retaliation for taking time off.

The woman lost her job at the company after refusing to complete 12.5-hour shifts following medical treatment for walking pneumonia and asthma. She had worked the long shifts without breaks for four years. She took two days off to recover from pneumonia and asked for a shorter work schedule upon returning to work to accommodate her health condition. The employer denied the request. A subsequent asthma attack sent her to the emergency room. When she came back to work, she declined to comply with the order to work a full 12.5 hour shift, and the company terminated her employment.

A court decided that her lawsuit could proceed based on the merits of the timing of the actions in the case. The court viewed her need to get emergency medical care as a potential family leave. Therefore her firing might represent retaliation for taking leave. The employer's demand that she work 12.5 hours after she asked for shorter hours because of her health also had the potential to meet the legal definition of interference with her right to take leave.

When a person experiences negative treatment after requesting or taking a family leave, an attorney familiar with the Family and Medical Leave Act might provide insight about workplace rights. If the evidence indicates unlawful actions, then an attorney might prepare a lawsuit against the employer, seeing compensation as well as the client's reinstatement to his or her former position.

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