A federal court recently ruled that the terms of a collective bargaining agreement qualified an otherwise ineligible employee for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. In Valentino v. Wickliffe City School District Board of Education, the employer moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff employee had not worked the requisite 1,250 hours in the year immediately preceding her request for FMLA leave. The employee responded, arguing that her request was covered by the FMLA because she had worked the requisite number of hours in the eligibility period identified in her CBA, which stated that, for the purposes of determining whether an employee qualifies for family leave, the term “year” is defined as the school year, from July 1 to June 30. Noting that this was “an unchartered area,” the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio ruled that the CBA definition controlled. In support of its decision, the Court cited 29 U.S.C. §2652(a), which states that none of the provisions of the FMLA should be “construed to diminish the obligation of an employer to comply with any collective bargaining agreement or any employment benefit program or plan that provides greater family or medical leave rights to employees” than the FMLA.

This case is a good reminder that unionized employers need to be aware of any relevant provisions in collective bargaining agreements when they make decisions regarding an employee’s rights under the FMLA.