In a case of first impression on a claim that an employer interfered with an individual's exercise of her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that the employer bears the burden of proving it had a legitimate reason for not reinstating the employee to her former position following FMLA leave. The court further held that the employee is not required to demonstrate that her employer lacked a reasonable basis for its refusal to reinstate her. Sanders v. City of Newport (9th Cir. March 17, 2011).
Sanders, a former utility billing clerk who had worked for the City of Newport for approximately 10 years, began suffering health problems after the City moved her office to a new location and started using lower-grade billing paper. After being diagnosed with "multiple chemical sensitivity" triggered by handling low-grade paper at work and poor air quality in her work area, Sanders requested and was granted one month of FMLA leave. This leave was later extended because of an unrelated medical condition.
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