Employment-Eleventh Circuit Rules That An Employee Must Be Eligible To Take FMLA Leave To Be Able To Bring A Claim Of FMLA Violation

In Hurley v. Kent of Naples, Inc., No. 13-10298 (11th Cir. 2014), the plaintiff, Patrick Hurley (“Hurley”), sued the defendants for violating the Family Medical Leave Act (the “FMLA”).

In this case, Hurley, who suffers from depression, contends that the defendants wrongfully denied his request for eleven weeks of vacation time and terminated his employment. Following a jury trial, the district court entered, in favor of Hurley, a judgment for $200,000 in actual damages for backpay, $200,000 in liquidated damages, and $353,901.85 in damages for front pay. The defendants contend on appeal that Hurley’s request did not qualify for FMLA protection, so that no damages should be awarded. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (the “Court”) agreed with the defendants that Hurley did not qualify for the leave, and overturned the judgments entered by the district court.

In analyzing the case, the Court ruled that an employee must actually qualify for FMLA to state a claim of FMLA violation including a claim or interference with or retaliation for asserting FMLA rights. Here, Hurley did not so qualify, despite a chronic health condition, because he did not experience any period of incapacity or treatment for such incapacity due to a chronic serious health condition. The Court implicity accepted that neither he nor anyone else, such as a family member, met any other health condition that would qualify him for FMLA leave.