A federal appeals court has revived a lawsuit filed by a school district payroll supervisor who says he lost his job after asserting his rights under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, reversed a federal district judge who had ruled for the Brevard County, Fla., school district in the case.
In its Sept. 30 decision in Martin v. Brevard County Public Schools , the appeals court said the payroll supervisor, Anthony G. Martin, had raised genuine factual issues in his suit and thus the school district did not warrant summary judgment in its favor.
The court said Martin was arguably entitled to leave under the federal law because he was caring for his granddaughter when the girl’s mother--Martin’s daughter--was scheduled to be deployed for overseas military duty in 2003.
Before granting Martin the leave, school district officials had given him an unsatisfactory job evaluation in several areas and required him to fulfill an improvement plan, according to court documents. The district told Martin his employment contract would not be renewed if the FMLA leave kept the worker from fulfilling his improvement plan. Martin’s suit said the district’s actions interfered with his rights under the FMLA.
The appeals court said it was a matter of dispute whether Martin would have been able to fulfill his improvement plan had he not taken leave that was presumably valid under the federal law.
“Whether Martin would have been retained and his contract renewed if he had been able to complete the final three-plus weeks of his improvement plan is a matter of speculation,” the court said. “Martin was unable to complete the plan as a result of his being—at least arguably—on proper FMLA leave.”
The appeals panel sent the case back to federal district court for further proceedings.
A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.