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7th Circuit rejects claim that FMLA should be extended to non-eligible employees

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment for a transportation company on a fired worker’s claims that her termination violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. The judges didn’t agree with the woman that FMLA protection should extend to non-eligible employees who request leave for future periods.

In Terri Basden v. Professional Transportation Inc., 11-2880, Terri Basden was fired from her job as a dispatcher after accumulating multiple absences, some which included medical reasons. She believed she may have multiple sclerosis, although she would not be able to see a specialist for several months. After receiving a three-day suspension, she sought unpaid 30-day leave of absence, which employees who have been with the company for at least a year may request. Basden had not been employed for a year yet. She did not return after her suspension and was fired.

She filed a lawsuit, alleging violations of the ADA and FMLA when she was fired. The District Court granted summary judgment for Professional Transportation Inc.

Basden failed to present sufficient evidence that she was qualified to perform the essential functions of her job, even with a reasonable accommodation, the judges ruled. She responded to PTI’s motion for summary judgment on the ADA claim with evidence that her condition improved and that she hoped to return to work regularly after her leave.

Although the judges found that PTI failed to engage in the interactive accommodation exploration process required by the ADA, that failure doesn’t need to be considered if the employee fails to present evidence sufficient to reach the jury on the question of whether she was able to perform the essential functions of her job with an accommodation.

On her FMLA claim, she argued the Act should not be interpreted to preclude relief for non-eligible employees who request leave for future periods. But her request was made before she was eligible for FMLA protection and sought leave that would have began before her eligibility began, Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman of the Northern District of Illinois wrote, who was sitting by designation.

“Basden cites no authority for extending the statute’s protections to her situation, and arguments for such extension have been squarely rejected elsewhere,” she wrote.

 

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