An RN on FMLA leave lawfully was discharged from her position at Detroit Medical Center when her employer discovered she had misrepresented her alleged medical condition in her FMLA leave request, a federal district court has determined. Lineberry v. Detroit Medical Center, et al., Case No. 11-13752 (E.D. Mich., S.D. Feb. 5, 2013). Although the RN claimed she could walk and stand only for limited periods and, thus, required FMLA leave, her coworkers discovered Facebook photos that told a different story. The RN’s Facebook posts, which were discovered by her coworkers and reported up the chain, included photos of the RN’s Mexico vacation, photos of the RN standing and holding her infant grandchildren, one in each arm, and other photos and postings that suggested she had misrepresented her need for leave. Although the trip was pre-approved by her supervisor, the RN initially told her supervisor she used wheelchairs in all airports. When she was reminded by the employer that airports have cameras, she admitted she had lied and further admitted she never used a wheelchair during her trip. She was terminated.
The RN filed suit alleging the Medical Center violated her FMLA rights by denying her right to reinstatement and retaliating against her for having taken FMLA leave. In granting the Medical Center’s motion for summary judgment, the District Court explained that the undisputed evidence supported the fact that she had been terminated for dishonesty, not for taking FMLA leave.
Although employers should exercise caution when terminating an employee during FMLA leave, Lineberry is an example of an employer lawfully discharging an employee based on undisputed evidence the employee has been dishonest as to the basis for her need for leave.