Worker's entire service decides FMLA eligibility

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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.


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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.