Family Medical Leave Case Summary
Judith-Baldwin v. MJ Daly
In April 2005, Judith M. Baldwin filed a complaint against her former employer M.J. Daly & Sons with the State of Connecticut Department of Labor, Wage and Workplace Standards Division for not being allowed to take leave under the Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act (CFMLA).
The company contended that she had not met the conditions to be eligible for leave under the law, which include working for at least 1,000 hours with the employer for at least 12 months, neither of which need be consecutive. Specifically, Daly said that Baldwin did not fulfill the 12-month requirement of the CFMLA.
Baldwin contended that she had in fact worked 12 months, having performed work for Daly in a joint venture with The Poole and Kent Co. from July 1995 through January 1996, and for Daly from June 2004 through November 2004. Also, Baldwin has worked overtime in her second stint with the company and said that the overtime hours should go toward her 12 months, or 52 weeks with the company.
In its defense, the company said Baldwin was not an “eligible employee” under the law because she did not put in twelve months with the company. Daly also said that the joint venture in the 90s with Poole and Kent Co. did not constitute “joint employment” under the CFMLA and therefore Baldwin’s time in that venture should not be counted toward the 12-month requirement.
Baldwin Ruled Not Eligible
The state labor department found that the Daly/Poole venture did not constitute joint employment under the law. The agency declared no single aspect can determine joint employment and that the situation needs to be considered in its totality.
The labor department noted that the two entities had worked jointly on numerous projects but were not engaged in a joint venture when Baldwin was working from 1995 through 1996. In one particular situation, Daly maintained a major subcontractor license in a joint venture with Poole from December 1990 through June 1992.
Baldwin had been hired in 1995 to work on a project that was initially a Daly/Poole joint venture, but Poole eventually bought out Daly’s interest in the project. The state agency ruled that Daly did not benefit economically from work performed by Baldwin and therefore, time worked on the project did not count toward her 12 months.
Counting Overtime Hours
Even if the work performed in the 90s had been considered toward the 12 months, Baldwin still would not have satisfied the requirement.
During 13 of the 22 weeks Baldwin worked for Daly in 2004, she worked overtime and she asserted that these overtime hours should count as an added week in meeting the 12-month, or 52-week, time period requirement. When these hours are taken into account, Baldwin was found to have worked a total of 25 weeks.
Ultimately, the Connecticut labor department decided that Baldwin failed to prove that she was an “eligible employee” under CFMLA regulations, and therefore is not entitled to leave.
Determining FMLA Eligibility
While the Baldwin v. Daly case dealt specifically with Connecticut’s leave law, the state law is based on similar criteria found within the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
For an employee to be eligible under the FMLA, they must have worked for a company for 1,250 hours over a period of at least 12 employee must also work for either the government or an organization with at least 50 workers all living in a 75-mile radius.
This requirement may appear to be straightforward but the modern workplace and the emergence of telecommuting makes calculating hours much more difficult In order to protect themselves from possible litigation, employers should strive to record all hours an employee works and periodically verify these numbers with their employees.
In the 2014 case of Alexander v. Boeing Co., Jill Alexander claimed that she was fired for requesting FMLA leave. Her employer, Boeing, said that Alexander had only worked 1,203.2 hours according to their records. Alexander countered that she worked 2.5 extra hours each day handling email duties and taking work-related phone calls.
Ultimately, a district court credited Alexander for those hours for a grand total of 1,275. She was allowed to move ahead with her claim.
Large employers also need to be mindful of workers not on the payroll who qualify for FMLA leave under integrated or joint employment rules. If separate entities share a common management, labor relations, financial control or other vital operations, they could be viewed as one entity under the FMLA. Two companies could be considered joint employers if they both control the work or working situation of an employee.
In the 2014 case of Cuff v. Trans States Holdings, Daren Cuff was initially denied leave because his employer, Trans States Airlines, only had 33 workers within 75 miles of the job site. However, Trans States Airlines and GoJet Airline provide regional air service for United and both small companies are owned by Trans States Holdings. Because GoJet had more than 300 employees, the district court ruled in favor of Cuff.
The Seventh Circuit upheld the district court’s decision and cited two primary factors in affirming the decision. The appellate court said it needed to determine if the two employers share the worker and if one company is operating in the interest of the other company. The court affirmed that both of these conditions were met, stating that Cuff was a representative of Trans States Airlines, GoJet and Trans States Holding when it came to dealing with United Airlines. Cuff’s business card even displayed all three logos.
Employers Need to Know the FMLA.
In summary, all of the above cases demonstrate that an employer should have a firm grasp on the intricacies of the FMLA. Companies should also prepare for and safeguard against challenges relating to the FMLA. The US Department of Labor announced it would be stepping up enforcement activities and the coming years feature even more FMLA cases showing up in the court system.