Ineligible worker’s retaliation charge fails after requesting FMLA for pregnancy

Know the FMLA pregnancy rights of ineligible employees

If you ever have to fire someone who was previously denied FMLA pregnancy leave because of ineligibility, you should be able to proceed with confidence if he or she lodges a complaint.

Here’s a case where an employer chose not to renew the contract of an FMLA-ineligible employee after declining her family medical leave request.

Fired after requesting FMLA pregnancy leave

In December, elementary school teacher Brandi Walker told her boss she was expecting a baby next summer. She requested FMLA leave for early next school year. But her request was denied because she hadn’t yet worked 1,250 hours.

A few months later, Walker was shocked to learn her contract hadn’t been extended for the next year. In her mind, there was only one logical reason: The school had retaliated against her for requesting an FMLA pregnancy leave. Walker filed a lawsuit charging retaliation.

The decision

A court ruled against her. In finding for Walker’s employer, the judge noted Walker was ineligible when she requested FMLA for her pregnancy, and she still would have been ineligible when her family medical leave would have begun.

In its decision the court wrote, “We leave for another day the question of whether the Family Medical Leave Act protects a pre-eligibility request for a post-eligibility FMLA pregnancy leave.”

Cite: Walker v. Elmore Country Board of Education, U.S. Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit, No. 02-16509, 8/5/04.