ILNews

Worker's entire service decides FMLA eligibility

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

In an issue of first impression, the majority of Indiana Supreme Court justices ruled an employee filling multiple positions with the same employer is eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act if the employee's total service is sufficient to qualify, even if the service in either position alone doesn't qualify.

In Gary Community School Corporation v. Tom Powell, No. 45S03-0809-CV-482, the high court had to determine whether an employee's FMLA eligibility is determined by the employee's entire service to the employer or separately for each position. The trial court ruled Tom Powell was an eligible employee for purposes of both his teaching and coaching positions; the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, holding the issue is controlled by the parties' treatment of the jobs as unified or separate.

Powell worked as a math teacher, night school teacher, and head football coach in the summer of 2001 when he had to take FMLA leave for seven weeks. When he returned to his job as math and night school teachers, he learned the Gary Community School Corp. fired him from his head football coaching job. He complained to the high school principal and spoke with a news reporter. He was denied the position in 2002 and 2003. That led to his action against GCSC alleging it violated FMLA by not restoring him as coach for the 2001 season and by retaliating against him for taking FMLA leave by rejecting his application in subsequent years to become the head coach.

The high court examined the language of the FMLA, committee reports accompanying the passage of the Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act to conclude the 1,250-hour requirement applies to the employee's overall service to the employer, and that even though Powell had separate academic and athletic supervisors, GCSC is his employer for purposes of the FMLA, wrote Justice Boehm for the majority.

There was also sufficient evidence to support the jury's determination GCSC had retaliated against Powell. Powell demonstrated he was engaged in activity protected by the FMLA - taking leave and opposing the school corporation's FMLA violation by complaining to the newspaper. He also showed adverse employment action and a casual connection because before the article was published in the newspaper, a three-person committee recommended him for head coach in 2002, but afterwards, the athletic director didn't want to recommend Powell because he had spoken to the media. Finally, GCSC's proffered proper reasons for not rehiring Powell are pretextual.

The Supreme Court affirmed the propriety of front pay in the instant case, but did rule the front pay should be discounted to present value. It used the Indiana statutory rate of 8 percent because there is no clear authority regarding the discount rate applicable to an award of front pay under FMLA. The high court also affirmed the trial court's award of attorney fees to Powell.

Justice Brent Dickson dissented without a separate opinion, believing the Court of Appeals correctly decided the issues in the case.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

  2. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  3. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  4. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  5. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

ADVERTISEMENT