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Mixed motive FMLA claims approved.

Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee

The Supreme Court recently held that plaintiffs filing age discrimination claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act cannot prevail if the adverse employment action was the result of multiple factors, including their age--the so-called "mixed-motive" claim.

But the 6th Circuit held on Aug. 26 that the high court's ruling in Gross v. FBL Financial Services does not apply to cases filed under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Based on Department of Labor regulations, the appeals court found that "the FMLA, like Title VII, authorizes claims in which an employer bases an employment decision on both permissible and impermissible factors," thereby giving the green light to mixed-motive FMLA claims.

The plaintiff in Hunter v. Valley View Local Schools was a school janitor who had taken various periods of leave under the FMLA due to nonjob-related injuries. She sued when the school district placed her on involuntary unpaid leave. Evidence in the case established that the employer ordered the involuntary leave both because she was unable to perform the essential functions of her job (permissible under the FMLA) and because of her excessive absenteeism while on FMLA leaves (not permitted under the FMLA). Because one of the factors the employer considered was in violation of the FMLA, the court overturned Valley View's grant of summary judgment and remanded the case.
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Title Annotation:6TH CIRCUIT
Author:Wanton, Mary S.
Publication:InsideCounsel
Date:Nov 1, 2009
Words:224
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