Last week, the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion in a Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) case which involved claims against Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. The court held that Bridgestone unlawfully interfered with the FMLA rights of Lucas Hernandez, a tire builder Bridgestone fired because of attendance.
While Hernandez worked for Bridgestone his son had asthma and he needed to intermittently take time off from work to care for his son. The FMLA requires employers to permit FMLA-eligible employees to take intermittent leave for qualifying reasons, such as to care for a son or daughter with a serious health condition. Bridgestone permitted Hernandez to take this intermittent FMLA leave but, according to the court, it did not provide him with all of the leave he was entitled to take.
Like many manufacturers, Bridgestone ran its tire building operations continuously. This continuous operation required many employees to routinely work overtime shifts. At the plant where Hernandez worked, Bridgestone put out overtime sign-up sheets where workers could express interest in overtime work. Bridgestone then took the information from the sign-up sheets and posted another sheet indicating who was selected for overtime and when they had to work. The court found that once Bridgestone selected an employee for overtime and put their name on the sheet, that overtime shift was mandatory. Characterizing the overtime shift as mandatory had implications for calculating Hernandez’s FMLA leave entitlement.