Employers often defend against discrimination and retaliation claims by arguing that courts should not act like super human resources managers who second guess their employment decisions. A panel of the Sixth Circuit took that argument to heart in its May 8th decision in Seeger v. Cincinnati Bell Telephone Co., in which the court upheld summary judgment in favor of the employer on the ground that the employer had an “honest belief” that the plaintiff had engaged in disability fraud.

Tom Seeger was on FMLA leave for aback injury when he was spotted at the Cincinnati Oktoberfest by several of his co-workers. One of the employees contacted human resources to say at Seeger was able to walk 50 to 75 feet, seemingly unimpaired. During the employer’s investigation, however, others remarked that Seeger seemed to to be in pain. The employer’s investigation investigation also included an interview of Seeger and a review of his medical records, disability file and employment history. Seeger was suspended and was given an opportunity to submit a statement as well as a statement from his physician. After considering all of this information, the employer decided that Seeger’s activity at Oktoberfest was inconsistent with his claimed disability and terminated him for disability fraud.

Seeger filed suit for interference with his FMLA rights and for retaliation in violation of the FMLA. With respect to the interference claim, the court concluded that Seeger had been given all of the FMLA leave he had requested since he had actually returned to full duty during the course of the investigation. With respect to the retaliation claim, the court noted the closeness in time between the FMLA leave and the termination, but concluded that CBT made a “reasonably informed and considered decision” before it terminated Seeger, and that Seeger has failed to show that CBT’s decision-making process was unworthy of credence.

Continue Reading Sixth Circuit Rejects FMLA Retaliation Claim Based On Employer’s Honest Belief That Employee Had Committed Fraud