U.S. Court of Appeals Finds in Favor of Employee Forced to Work While on FMLA

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit Decides Employers Cannot Interfere with Employee Family Leave by Mandating Work

A woman named Tondalaya Evans took her employer Books-a-Million to court claiming the national book retailer was not within its legal right to force her to work while she was on family leave. While Books-a-Million paid her for the time she spent working while on family leave, District Judges Kenneth Ryskamp and Richard Berman decided that she was correct: an employer does not have the right to force an employee to work— even if paid— while that person is on family leave.

Specifics of the Case

The background of the case is as follows: Evans worked for Books-a-Million from 1997 until 2007. During that time she worked in the Finance Department as a Payroll and Insurance Manager, following her promotion from staff accountant. In 2006, Evans became pregnant and approached her supervisor regarding the time off she would have a right to under the Family Medical Leave Act following the birth of her child.

Sandi Meeks, Evans´s supervisor, informed her employee that, as opposed to granting her FMLA time, she would be outfitted with a new computer and be required to work from home. Evans gave birth on the 29th of August, 2006 and arrived home on the 1st of September. Immediately upon her arrival, she began receiving work related phone calls. Not only did Meeks require Evans work full-time, on a number of occasions, she was required to work more than eight hours in a day while on maternity leave.

Upon her return, Evans was told to resign or accept a position with which she had no experience. The reason she was given for her being moved into another position was that she had not performed her job well while on FMLA leave. She refused to give-up her position and was subsequently fired.

Evans quickly filed suit and both the original court and the appellate court decided in her favor. She was awarded compensation for the money she spent on attorneys´ fees as-well-as a judgment amount.

This court case made it very clear: FMLA means leave, not work-from-home.

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