FMLA Retaliation Claim Dismissed; Yearlong Work Absence Was Not FMLA-Protected, Evidence of Causation Lacking

In Tiffany v. Dzwonczyk, 2016 WL 3661410 (N.D.N.Y. July 5, 2016), the court dismissed plaintiff’s claim asserting retaliation in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The court summarized the law:

The Second Circuit recognizes two claims under the FMLA: (i) interference with FMLA rights; and (ii) retaliation for exercising FMLA rights. … To establish a prima facie case of retaliation under the FMLA, a plaintiff must show 1) he exercised rights protected under the FMLA; 2) he was qualified for his position; 3) he suffered an adverse employment action; and 4) the adverse employment action occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of retaliatory intent. An inference of retaliatory intent can be established when there is a basis for a jury to conclude that ‘a causal connection [exists] between the plaintiff’s protected activity and the adverse action taken by the employer. Proof of the causal connection can be established indirectly by showing that the protected activity was closely followed in time by the adverse action.

In granting defendant’s motion to dismiss, the court explained, inter alia, that plaintiff’s more than one-year absence from work preceding his termination was not FMLA-protected (as he had already exhausted his twelve weeks of leave prior to that time); that plaintiff did “not allege any facts to suggest that he was not reinstated to his position or that Defendants attempted to terminate his position in response to Plaintiff taking FMLA leave”; and that there was a “significant lapse of time between Plaintiff’s exercise of FMLA leave in the months of May, June and July of 2013 and his termination in October of 2014” which undercut the necessary “causal connection between Plaintiff’s exercise of FMLA leave and the adverse employment action.”

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