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Good Documentation Disproved FMLA Retaliation

Delwanna Simpson was the Assistant Director of Maintenance and Operations at Temple University. Her performance reviews were mostly positive but did include warnings about her need to be a more supportive leader. When a new supervisor was hired, he met weekly with Simpson to make sure her leadership issues improved. However, employees continued to complain that Simpson “yelled” and “berated” them. She was described as “punitive.” When an employee complained that Simpson threatened the employee with insubordination for trying to leave the room, the supervisor decided to fire her.
On January 19, 2018, the supervisor told Simpson he had lost faith in her ability to manage other employees. The next day, the supervisor notified human resources that he wanted to begin the termination process. He was instructed to outline his reasons in an email. He sent the email on January 22, 2018. That same day, Simpson applied for two new jobs at Temple and went to the hospital with abdominal pain and nausea. She requested medical leave under FMLA the next day. The supervisor was not aware of her request. On January 26, 2018, the supervisor terminated Simpson via email. She filed a lawsuit alleging FMLA retaliation.
The federal district court held that “nothing in the record is sufficient to establish that Plaintiff’s invocation of her FMLA rights was causally related to her termination.” The supervisor’s timeline of events with supporting documentation made it clear that all decisions were made prior to her request for leave and there was no evidence to suggest the company would have had any idea she would need FMLA leave. Temple University was “under no obligation to revisit or revoke their earlier decision to terminate [Simpson] simply because they became aware of her request for FMLA leave at a later point.” Summary judgment for Temple was granted.