Fourth Circuit Provides Guidance On Return to Work Pursuant to FMLA

By Sabrina Presnell Rockoff

On May 16, 2017, the 4th Circuit issued an opinion in Waag v. Sotera Def. Solutions, Inc., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8587, providing further guidance regarding an employer’s responsibilities to return an employee to work following FMLA leave.

Mr. Waag brought the action against his former employer, Sotera Defense Solutions, Inc., a federal defense contractor, alleging a violation of the Family Medical Leave Act by not restoring him to his position when he returned from a medical leave; by placing him in a job that was not equivalent to the one he held before the leave; and by terminating him from the new job because he took medical leave.  The District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted summary judgment to the employer.  The 4th Circuit affirmed.

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Sharif v. United Airlines, Inc.: Discharging Employee For FMLA Fraud and Dishonesty Is Not FMLA Retaliation

Murray,JoeBy Joseph S. Murray IV

A Halloween treat for employers and a trick for FMLA-abusing, dishonest employees: The 4th Circuit held that terminating an employee for abusing FMLA leave and for lying during an investigation into the FMLA abuse is not retaliation under the FMLA. Sharif v. United Airlines, Inc., No. 15-1747 (4th Cir. Oct. 31, 2016). While the ruling in this case was easy based on the facts, the 4th Circuit has provided a clear framework going forward for attorneys to defend or prosecute claims of FMLA retaliation when the circumstances surrounding the request for leave or the leave itself triggers an investigation and adverse action.

In 2009, Masoud Sharif was diagnosed with anxiety disorder. United approved every one of Sharif’s requests for FMLA leave to handle his panic attacks. Sharif used a total of 56 days of FMLA leave in the two years prior to his discharge, including days after United initiated an investigation into his FMLA use.

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