What Do You Think: Was Bank Manager Fired for Seeking Paternity Leave or for Forgery?

10 Jun, 2024 Chris Parker


New Canaan, CT (WorkersCompensation.com) – Whether an FMLA retaliation claim proceeds to trial can depend on a variety of factors. A case involving a store manager for T.D. Bank shows that one factor that can make a difference is how supervisors initially react to an employee’s leave request.

The store manager told his supervisor in September 2019 that his wife was pregnant and asked for paternity leave.  He said he planned to take the leave from Jan. 30, 2020, through Feb.14, 2020.

The supervisor said: "Ok, that's great." But according to the store manager, his supervisor’s tone and demeanor changed "dramatically" after he informed him of his wife’s pregnancy. At the same time, no one at the company actually said anything negative to him about it. The supervisor granted the leave, as he had done with other male employees in the past.

About five months after the leave request, the store manager’s brother, who lived in Florida, noticed that someone had opened several accounts in his name without his permission. The brother was adamant when speaking with his Florida branch that the new accounts were fraudulent because he had been in Delaware, not Connecticut, when they were opened.

The Connecticut branch’s internal investigator concluded that the store manager fraudulently opened the accounts and forged his brother’s signature. The company fired him for that reason.

The store manager claimed that T.D. Bank engaged in FMLA retaliation by firing him because he requested paternity leave. He argued in part that the company’s explanation for firing him was not genuine, given that it never interviewed his brother.

To establish FMLA retaliation, an employee must show that: 1) he exercised his FMLA rights; 2) he was qualified for his position; 3) he suffered an adverse employment action; and 4) the adverse action occurred under circumstances indicating retaliatory intent. 

If the employer then provides a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its action, the employee can proceed with the case only by showing that the employer's explanation is a pretext for FMLA discrimination. Essentially, the employee must show that his exercise of his FMLA rights was a motivating factor in the employer’s adverse employment action.

Could the manager proceed to a jury with his FMLA retaliation case? 

A. Yes. It was suspicious that the company investigated him after he requested leave and didn’t bother to interview his brother.

B. No. The fact that no one said anything negative to him and that the same supervisor granted leave to other male employees undermined the manager’s claim, especially in light of the forgery investigation.

If you selected B, you agreed with the court in Carter v. T.D. Bank, No. 23-950 (2d Cir. 06/04/24), which found insufficient evidence that the store manager’s request for paternity leave motivated the company to terminate him. 

The court pointed out that the investigation commenced five months after the manager told his supervisor his wife was pregnant. The amount of time that passed suggested the two events were unconnected.

The fact that the supervisor granted parental leave to other male employees in the past also supported the company’s position that it did not retaliate. 

Given that evidence, as well as the intervening investigation, no reasonable jury could find the termination was motivated, even in part, by a desire to retaliate, the court ruled.

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