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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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  1. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  2. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

  3. From the article's fourth paragraph: "Her work underscores the blurry lines in Russia between the government and businesses . . ." Obviously, the author of this piece doesn't pay much attention to the "blurry lines" between government and businesses that exist in the United States. And I'm not talking only about Trump's alleged conflicts of interest. When lobbyists for major industries (pharmaceutical, petroleum, insurance, etc) have greater access to this country's elected representatives than do everyday individuals (i.e., voters), then I would say that the lines between government and business in the United States are just as blurry, if not more so, than in Russia.

  4. For some strange reason this story, like many on this ezine that question the powerful, seems to have been released in two formats. Prior format here: http://www.theindianalawyer.com/nominees-selected-for-us-attorney-in-indiana/PARAMS/article/44263 That observed, I must note that it is quite refreshing that denizens of the great unwashed (like me) can be allowed to openly question powerful elitists at ICE MILLER who are on the public dole like Selby. Kudos to those at this ezine who understand that they cannot be mere lapdogs to the powerful and corrupt, lest freedom bleed out. If you wonder why the Senator resisted Selby, consider reading the comments here for a theory: http://www.theindianalawyer.com/nominees-selected-for-us-attorney-in-indiana/PARAMS/article/44263

  5. Why is it a crisis that people want to protect their rights themselves? The courts have a huge bias against people appearing on their own behalf and these judges and lawyers will face their maker one day and answer for their actions.

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