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gessling By Joshua B. Gessling

Finding that the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals had not previously addressed the issue, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana recently held that a pre-eligibility request for post-eligibility leave may be protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

In Morkoetter v. Sonoco Products Co., No. 3:11-CV-485 (N.D. Ind. Mar. 29, 2013), the employee alleged that he informed his employer of his disabilities and plans to take time away from work after he became eligible for leave under the FMLA. The employee alleged that after informing his employer of the need for post-eligibility leave, but approximately five weeks before reaching his eligibility date, the employer terminated his employment. The employee claimed the employer fired him because of his pre-eligibility request for post-eligibility leave in violation of the FMLA. The employer moved to dismiss. Because the employee had not worked for the employer for 12 months and, consequently, was not yet eligible for FMLA leave, the employer argued the employee’s termination did not constitute retaliation.

Relying heavily upon the rationale in Pereda v. Brookdale Senior Living Cmty., Inc., 666 F.3d 1269 (11th Cir. 2012), the court denied the employer’s motion to dismiss the FMLA claim and held that termination based upon a pre-eligibility request for post-eligibility leave may constitute a viable retaliation claim under the FMLA. Since the FMLA requires that employees provide employers with notice of foreseeable future leave, the court reasoned that the aims of the FMLA would be compromised if employees were required to provide notice of future leave while remaining exposed to retaliation for complying with the law.

Given this growing trend, employers should be mindful that certain pre-eligibility requests may be protected under the FMLA, reassess internal policies in light of this development, and administer leave requests accordingly.•

Mr. Gessling is an associate at Kahn Dees Donovan & Kahn LLP in Evansville. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.


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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues