Employment-Fifth Circuit Reverse’s District Court’s Summary Judgment Against Former Employee Claiming FMLA Retaliation

In Todd v. Ion, No. 12-60682 (5th Cir. 2012), plaintiff Todd W. Ion (“Ion”), a former employee of defendant Chevron USA, Inc. (“Chevron”), was appealing the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Chevron. Ion alleges that Chevron terminated him in retaliation for exercising his rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). The district court held that, while Ion had established the existence of a genuine dispute as to a material fact regarding Chevron’s motivation for the termination, Chevron had established as a matter of law that it would have terminated Ion despite any retaliatory motive.

Upon reviewing the case, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (the “Court”) ruled that-contrary to the district court’s finding -Chevron failed to establish, as a matter of law, that it would have fired Ion despite any retaliatory motive. In so ruling, it found that Chevron’s evidence of Ion’s work history deficiencies, in terms of poor attendance and performance, faking the need to take FMLA leave and abusive behavior, was not sufficient to prove that it would have fired him absent the motive to retaliate. As such, the Court reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment, and remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings.

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