Last week a federal court in New Hampshire held that a jury could reasonably find that First Data Merchant Services (“First Data”) violated the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) when it fired Jessica Fountain, a former First Data account executive. Ms. Fountain took FMLA leave in 2009 because of her own serious medical condition and again in 2011 and 2012 to care for her son when he suffered from a serious medical condition. In January 2013, Ms. Fountain requested FMLA leave again and shortly afterwards First Data fired her supposedly for poor performance.
Ms. Fountain argued to the court that First Data violated the FMLA when it fired her, in part, because it did not adjust her sales quotas in 2012 to account for the fact that she missed work for FMLA leave. The court found this argument persuasive because there was evidence that Ms. Fountain’s supervisor used unadjusted 2012 sales quotas to justify his decision to terminate her employment.
First Data’s treatment of Ms. Fountain is not uncommon. Sometimes employers think that if they treat all employees the same, they are not going to violate the law. However, laws like the FMLA entitle employees to special treatment because of certain public policy considerations. The FMLA protects the jobs of FMLA-eligible employees who, for instance, need to take leave to care for their children when they have serious medical conditions because Congress did not want employees to have to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for their children. When an employee takes FMLA leave, she obviously cannot work and her employer cannot hold that against her. This means that when an employer evaluates an employee’s productivity, it cannot hold her to the same productivity standards as other employees who did not take FMLA leave.
As mentioned above, this type of FMLA violation is not uncommon. If you have taken FMLA leave and your employer is holding it against you, contact an experienced employment lawyer, like the lawyers at the Maine Employee Rights Group, to learn more about your rights. The Maine Employee Rights Group has successfully represented numerous Mainers in FMLA cases and we may be able to help you, too.