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Court upholds the statutory rights of FMLA

Angela McKinley was hired in 2014 as a Production Control Supervisor at one of Rapid Global's client sites, working for FCA. At the time of her hiring, McKinley signed an Employment Agreement which specifically included a statement regarding the amount of time after which any claim or lawsuit that an employee might bring against the company or its subsidiaries -- no more than six months after the date of the action or incident that would be the subject of any claim or lawsuit filed. By signing this employment agreement, an employee waives any alternate statute of limitations that might apply to the filing of any future lawsuit.

But then, in 2015, McKinley was exposed to toxic fumes that were the result of a fire that took place at the plant where she worked, which exacerbated an existing, chronic health condition. She made her employers aware of her declining health and informed them of each of her related appointments with her doctor to treat the exacerbated condition. When her doctor informed her that she would need to be away from work from June 1 to June 10, she informed management at FCA of the needed absence and inquired whether her job status would be affected. She received a phone call on June 5 informing her that she had been terminated because she was going to be off work for too long.

McKinley responded to her termination by filing a suit under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides employees that meet the criteria for eligibility with 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave per year while allowing them to the maintain their health benefits during that leave time. FMLA typically covers childbirth and newborn care, health care for an immediate family member and medical leave of the employee themselves to treat a serious health condition that prevents them from being able to work.

Rapid Global and FCA moved to have the suit dismissed, stating that the claim against them was barred by the agreement signed by McKinley at the time of her employment and that the time limit in which she was allowed to file a claim against them had passed. The court, however, disagreed -- coming to the conclusion that the employment agreement does not supersede the 2 year limitation period that is the right of an employee under FMLA. They also ruled that McKinley had sufficiently stated her plea for continued healthcare to her employers who reacted by firing her following her request for time off to treat her health condition rather than requesting additional information that would allow them to decide whether she qualified for FMLA.

Recognizing your FMLA rights

Statutory rights are the legal rights of any individual. They are meant to protect citizens and they are provided on both local and national levels. The FMLA rights exercised by McKinley in this suit are the statutory FMLA rights of all eligible employees. If you feel that your statutory rights are not being met, we may be able to help you. Contact our offices today for a free evaluation of your case.

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