An employee who took time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and then proceeded to become highly intoxicated –resulting in his arrest for driving while intoxicated—could not show that his termination constituted FMLA interference, FMLA retaliation or a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Capps v. Mondelez Global LLC, Case No. 14-CV-04331 (E.D. PA. Nov. 24, 2015).
Capps was employed as a mixing technician for Mondelez, a food company. In 2002, he was diagnosed with a degenerative bone disease, and subsequently had both of his hips replaced. He was certified to take intermittent FMLA leave when he experienced episodes of inflammation, requiring full bed rest.
Capps took FMLA leave on February 11 and 12, 2013 due to pain in his hips. He worked on February 13. The next day, he left a message stating that he would be late for work due to leg pain. Later that day, he called in again stating that he would be taking a full FMLA day because the pain had not subsided. That evening Capps went to a pub, became intoxicated, and was arrested on his way home for driving while intoxicated. The police took Capps to a local hospital for a blood test, which showed his blood alcohol level to be 0.339%, more than four times the legal limit. Capps was released from jail the next day at 2:30 a.m. He was supposed to report to work later that day, but took another FMLA day due to leg pain. He returned to work on February 18 and did not report the DUI to anyone.
Nearly a year later, the Human Resources Manager found a newspaper article in his mailbox reporting Capps’ DUI arrest and conviction a year earlier. Upon reviewing the court record, the company learned that Capps’ arrest and court dates appeared to coincide with dates that he took as FMLA leave. Capps was terminated due to dishonesty and misuse of his FMLA leave.
Capps asserted FMLA interference and retaliation claims as well as a disability discrimination claim. The Court dismissed his FMLA claims because the evidence showed that the company had an honest belief that Capps violated the company’s FMLA policy by taking leave when he actually was intoxicated and in jail. Capps failed to provide any evidence that demonstrated any discriminatory animus. As to his failure-to-accommodate claim, the Court held that a request to take FMLA leave is not a request for an accommodation because an employee who needs an accommodation must be able to perform the job. Because Capps could not work while on FMLA leave, he could not argue that the employer failed to accommodate him at work. All of his claims were dismissed.