Last month, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (which has jurisdiction over Florida, Georgia and Alabama) held that a pregnant employee, who provided several months notice to her employer of her intention to take leave upon the birth of her child, was protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") despite the fact that at the time she provided the notice, she was not eligible for FMLA. In short, the court held that the FMLA protected employees who make pre-eligibility requests for post-eligibility leave from both interference with the leave and from retaliation.
Appellant Kathryn Pereda ("Pereda") began working for Brookdale Senior Living Communities, Inc. on October 5, 2008. In June of 2009, Pereda advised Brookdale of her pregnancy and that she would be requesting FMLA leave around November 30, 2009, after the birth of her child.
Pereda alleges everything changed after she announced her pregnancy. First, she was no longer considered one of the top employees at Brookdale. Second, Brookdale began harassing her, causing stress and complications in her pregnancy. Third, Brookdale’s management placed her on a performance improvement plan with unattainable goals. Lastly, Pereda alleges that although she was eligible for sick and personal leave and was told she could use that time for doctor’s visits, management wrote her up for taking leave time to visit the doctor.
In August of 2009, Pereda took a few days off, and notified Brookdale management of her absence via email. When she returned to work she was written up for failure to obtain verbal authorization for her absence.
In September 2009, Pereda’s physician placed her on bed rest. Pereda left a phone message with the executive director, but did not receive a return call. Pereda was unable to reach someone at Brookdale until several days later, at which time she was fired.
Pereda filed a Complaint against Brookdale on May 11, 2010, asserting that "Brookdale interfered with her FMLA rights, insofar as Brookdale denied her benefits under the FMLA to which she was entitled, and terminated her for attempting to exercise those rights."