After a week long trial, a federal court jury in Hartford, Connecticut, has issued a verdict finding that Metro North Commuter Railroad violated the Family Medical Leave Act when it denied its employee his right to take FMLA absences protected from discipline. The worker is a Gulf War veteran with combat related PTSD who has the right to take intermittent leave to deal with the unforeseeable effects of that serious medical condition. His supervisor’s repeated attempts to discourage him from taking FMLA absences escalated into a loud confrontation when the supervisor shouted, "Bid out now or I will find a way to fire you!" This precipitated a major panic attack in the employee, requiring him to take FMLA leave for the rest of that day and the next. The supervisor recorded those leaves as FMLA, but then two weeks later filed disciplinary charges after altering the attendance payroll records to change those days into unprotected non-FMLA absences.
By declaring Metro North violated the FMLA, the jury’s verdict exposes Metro North to paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys fees and costs generated by the lawyers on both sides during two and a half years of federal court litigation. This is the first FMLA case to go to trial against Metro North, and if Metro North’s hostility toward the FMLA continues it certainly will not be the last.