Ex-Fiat Chrysler Worker’s Suit Revived in the Sixth Circuit

Last November, the Sixth Circuit revived a former Fiat Chrysler employee’s suit. The employee claimed that he was fired for taking off time from work, in order to manage his mental health conditions. He claimed that he had provided adequate notice under the FMLA, and his firing was unjust.

Case background

Edward Render worked in Michigan on an assembly line at FCA's Trenton Engine Complex from approximately January 2013 to January 2015, when he was fired for “attendance infractions.” He was reinstated in 2017 for a one-year probationary period after his union filed a grievance. The terms of reinstatement said that Fiat Chrysler could fire him again, if he had more than two unexcused latenesses or an unexcused absence during the probationary period. He was also conditionally approved of up to four FMLA leave days per month.

Render used his FMLA leave on five different occasions, from September through December, and he was fired the next January for violating the terms of his probationary period. He filed a lawsuit in October 2019. The district court found that Render had not given sufficient notice for his absence and lateness.

However, the Sixth Circuit disagreed, and reversed the July 2021 summary judgment ruling. The Sixth Circuit judges felt that the case hinged on notice for “unforeseeable” rather than foreseeable leave, given that Render’s mental health symptoms were unpredictable. The Sixth Circuit ruled that Render had complied with federal regulatory requirements, given the nature of his ailment.

Ultimately, should Render prevail on his claims, it could prove instructive as to how much notice workers must provide in similar situations.

If you were wrongfully laid off during or after using FMLA leave, help is available. Contact an experienced whistleblower attorney at at Kardell Law Group today for a consultation.