FMLA Retaliation Case To Go To Trial

The U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts has denied the employer DHL Express (USA), Inc.’s motion for summary judgment on employee’s claims for retaliation under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).

United States District Court, District of Massachusetts

SUMMARY: (court decision – opens in PDF)

“Gregory Caizzi brings this lawsuit against his former employer, DHL Express (USA), Inc. (DHL), alleging that it violated his rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. §§2601 et seq., when it terminated him for failing to report to work on several Sundays in July and August of 2020. …

“To make out a claim for retaliation under the FMLA, a plaintiff ‘must show that (1) he availed himself of a protected right under the FMLA; (2) he was adversely affected by an employment decision; (3) there is a causal connection between the employee’s protected activity and the employer’s adverse employment action.’ …

“DHL contends that Caizzi cannot establish the requisite causal link. Because Caizzi had two absences that indisputably cannot be tied to the exercise of FMLA rights — July 5 (on which date he was not approved for FMLA leave) and July 19 (for which date he concedes he did not request FMLA leave) — the question becomes whether Caizzi can establish that the third absence upon which DHL relied necessarily implicated his FMLA rights. In the court’s view, Caizzi has adduced sufficient evidence that would permit a reasonable juror to find in his favor. Other than July 5 and July 19, the absences warranting termination cited by DHL are July 26, August 2, August 9, and August 16. There is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Caizzi reported for work on August 9 and August 16 — Caizzi maintains that he was in both days, and [Anthony] Baglio’s calendar arguably supports his testimony. … If the jury resolves the factual dispute in Caizzi’s favor, either July 26 or August 2 must be the third absence underlying Caizzi’s termination. Because Caizzi offers evidence that Sedgwick approved his use of FMLA leave on both days, … a reasonable juror could find that Caizzi would not have been terminated but for his use of FMLA leave. …

“To make out a claim for FMLA interference, ‘plaintiff must show that (1) [he] was eligible for the FMLA’s protections; (2) [his] employer was covered by the FMLA; (3) [he] was entitled to leave under the FMLA; (4) [he] gave [his] employer notice of [his] intention to take leave; and (5) [his] employer denied [him] FMLA benefits to which [he] was entitled.’ … In setting out a claim of interference, a plaintiff need only show ‘entitlement to the disputed leave; no showing as to employer intent is required.’ … “DHL argues that Caizzi cannot show it ‘ever denied him any approved FMLA leave’ because Caizzi was ‘properly disciplined’ for each absence during July and August of 2020. … But whether Caizzi was properly disciplined is a disputed fact. …

“To the extent a showing of prejudice is required, the court cannot say that Caizzi fails to establish a genuine dispute of material fact. As noted above, Caizzi has offered evidence that could support a jury finding that the third absence underlying his dismissal was tied to use his of FMLA leave. And a reasonable jury might well find it unfair to charge Caizzi with the consequences of a mistaken calculation made by his employer in computing his eligible days of FMLA leave. It would thus be inappropriate to enter judgment in DHL’s favor on this claim.”





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