We all know that honesty is the best policy but what about an honest mistake? Can an honest mistake save you from liability in a retaliation lawsuit under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)? Just last month, federal appeals court in Pennsylvania said – Yes.
In Capps v. Mondelez Global, LLC, the federal 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals noted Fredrick Capps suffered from arthritis in his hips and periodically took FMLA leave. He called out on February 12 and 14 due to leg pain. On the night of February 14, Capps met some friends at a local pub for dinner because his wife was out of town and he did not know how to cook. He had three beers and three shots.
On his drive home, Capps was stopped by the police and arrested for having a blood alcohol reading four times the legal limit. The police released him the next morning, and he called out for his 1 p.m. shift because of leg pain. Capps returned to work on his next scheduled shift.
About a year later, Mondelez, the employer, learned of the incident. The HR department investigated whether any of Capps’ absences occurred during the time of his arrest and subsequent conviction for DUI. The HR department believed that Capps had several FMLA absences that corresponded with his arrest and court proceedings.