Termination Two Days Before Taking FMLA Leave “Unusually Suggestive,” New Jersey District Court Holds

In St. Cyr v. Brandywine Senior Living, Inc., 20 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 85426 (D.N.J. June 20, 2012), the court denied summary judgment in an FMLA interference and retaliation suit in which an employee was terminated a mere two days before she was to start FMLA leave. While temporal proximity (between the protected activity and the adverse employment action) is usually insufficient to defeat summary judgment without more evidence, here the proximity was “unusually suggestive,” so summary judgment was denied. In a victory for the employer, however, the court held the employee unable to prove that she was disabled under the NJLAD, notwithstanding her arthritis. First, while it caused her pain when she walked and caused her to stumble, it was resolved by medication. Second, the plaintiff provided no medical evidence of a disability, conceded it did not impact her ability to work (besides her need for leave for arthritis-related surgery), and she never requested an accommodation.

Note: This article was published in the July 2012 issue of the New Jersey eAuthority.