Seventh Circuit: Merely Discouraging FMLA Leave May Constitute FMLA Interference

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued a significant decision clarifying the scope of the Family & Medical Leave Act’s (“FMLA”) provision prohibiting employers from interfering with an employee’s exercise of his or her rights under the FMLA. 

In Ziccarelli v. Dart, No. 19-3435, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 15032, (7th Cir. June 1, 2022), a Seventh Circuit panel unanimously concluded that merely discouraging an employee from taking FMLA leave may constitute FMLA interference, and expressly rejected prior decisions implying that an employer’s actual denial of an FMLA request is an essential or requisite element to an FMLA interference claim.  See Opinion, Ziccarelli v. Dart – Link

In reaching its conclusion, the Seventh Circuit employed an expansive interpretation of the FMLA’s interference provision to encompass a broader range of activities and conduct giving rise to employer liability and exposure.

To avoid or limit exposure or liability, employers subject to the FMLA’s requirements should strictly adhere to the FMLA’s requirements and procedures, and exercise extensive care, attention and caution in communicating with employees regarding matters related to FMLA or other protected leave.

For any questions regarding the potential impact of the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Ziccarelli v. Dart, the FMLA, or other employment law matters, please contact Matt Tyrrell at (312) 648-2300 or by e-mail at matthew.tyrrell@sfbbg.com.

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