In the July 30, 2015, case of Janczak v. Tulsa Winch, Inc., the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the evidence an employer must be prepared to present to defeat an FMLA interference claim. Janczak was employed as a General Manager at the company’s Tulsa location. Janczak was on FMLA leave during July 2012 due to an auto accident. In June 2012, the company considered eliminating Janczak’s position due to a reorganization. Janczak was notified during the time that he was on FMLA that his position was eliminated and he was terminated. He sued, claiming the company interfered with his FMLA rights and retaliated against him for using FMLA.
The company responded to both FMLA theories by stating that his position had been eliminated and it was not due to his FMLA. The Court sustained the company’s argument regarding the retaliation claim. According to the Court, there was no evidence that the employer’s reason—the elimination of the position due to reorganization—was an untrue pretext for retaliation. Furthermore, timing alone on a termination decision is not sufficient to sustain a retaliation claim.
However, the Court permitted the FMLA interference claim to go to the jury. According to the Court, to defeat an interference claim, the employer must offer “undisputed proof” that Janczek’s position was definitively slated for elimination before his leave began. The Court also referred to company emails (“evidence mail”) where those involved in the decision to terminate Janczek had discussed his leave in that context. The Court concluded by stating that enough evidence existed for the interference claim—whether Janczek’s termination was “causally connected” to his use of FMLA leave—but that the same evidence did not support the retaliation claim because it did not show his termination was “motivated by” his use of FMLA leave.