Last week, the Second Circuit joined the Third Circuit in lowering the causation standard in evaluating alleged Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) violations against employers. Under a lower “motivating factor” standard established in Cassandra Woods v. START Treatment & Recovery Centers, courts within the Second Circuit must consider whether the exercise of an employee’s rights under the FMLA was one “motivating factor” in the decision to fire the employee. Previously, the Second Circuit had adopted a higher “but for” standard, which considers whether the employer wouldn’t have fired the employee “but for” the employee exercising his/her FMLA rights.
Cassandra Woods v. START Treatment & Recovery Centers
In Cassandra Woods v. START Treatment & Recovery Centers, Woods, a former substance abuse counselor at START, a nonprofit that offers treatment to narcotic-addicted patients, alleged she was unlawfully terminated after she exercised her rights under the FMLA. START defended that Woods’ termination was due to her poor performance, for which she received enhanced training and was even put on probation. Woods suffered from severe anemia and other medical conditions. She alleged that START improperly denied her requests for FMLA leave on several occasions, at least once because she was on probation. While on probation, she was hospitalized for seven days. START conceded that the leave due to Woods’ hospitalization was protected under the FMLA, yet it fired her a few weeks later due to her poor performance. Woods then sued START, alleging interference and retaliation under the FMLA. Continue Reading