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Employee’s Fun Night Out Shuts Down FMLA Interference Claim

Fredrick Capps worked as a dough mixer for Mondelez Global LLC. Mr. Capps suffered from Avasular Necrosis, which caused severe pain in his pelvic and leg region. When the pain came on, he needed full bed rest until it subsided. Based on his doctor’s note, Mondelez certified him for intermittent leave during these flare-ups.

On February 14, 2013, Mr. Capps had one of these flare-ups. He called in before his shift and told his supervisor that he would be in late. He then called to say he would need to miss the entire day, taking some FMLA leave. Apparently, the pain had ended by 6:00 p.m., in time for him to join his friends at a local pub for drinks, specifically three beers and three shots. Mr. Capps attempted to drive home thereafter but was pulled over by a police officer. He was arrested for driving under the influence. After his release from jail the following morning, Mr. Capps called in to work and told his supervisor that he needed to take more FMLA time due to leg pain. Over the next couple months, the company learned of Mr. Capps’ DUI. In investigating the arrest, the company realized that it happened when Mr. Capps was taking intermittent leave for his illness. Mondelez terminated his employment.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment against Mr. Capps. Mondelez had established that it had a reasonable and honest belief that Mr. Capps had misused his FMLA intermittent leave in violation of company policy. Mr. Capps was unable to show that the company had intent to retaliate against him for his FMLA use. None of his FMLA requests had been denied nor was he stopped from returning to work after taking any of his leave. Mr. Capps could not show that he had been denied any benefit to which he was entitled under FMLA nor that Mondelez had failed to accommodate him. The Third Circuit has joined several other circuits in upholding an employer’s honest belief to defeat an FMLA retaliation claim.