For more information please call  800.727.2766


Vacation While on FMLA Leave Not Automatic Grounds for Termination

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) is liable for a $2 million judgment to a former employee for firing him because he went on vacation while on approved Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave.

Richard DaPrato worked as a MWRA IT manager for 11 years with no disciplinary issues and positive performance evaluations. He requested leave initially for a knee operation but then had to seek more urgent leave for foot surgery. It was estimated that he would need four to six weeks to recover but could begin putting weight on the foot at four weeks. In the fifth week of his leave, DaPrato went with his family on their annual vacation to Mexico. After learning about the vacation, MWRA investigated and found that DaPrato had been walking, driving, and lifting luggage. MWRA concluded that these activities were inconsistent with foot surgery and thus DaPrato had misrepresented the disability that required FMLA leave. He was fired.

A jury heard DaPrato’s case for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and FMLA; it concluded that DaPrato was fired in retaliation for taking FMLA leave. He was awarded $408,444 in compensatory damages, &715,385 in punitive damages, $208,443 in statutory liquidated damages, and $605,690 in attorney’s fees. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts affirmed the verdict. The court stated that employers may consider an employee’s conduct while on vacation to ensure it is consistent with the reasons for medical leave. However, an employee is allowed to go on vacation provided it does not violate the underlying basis for the FMLA leave. In this case, MWRA did not properly review DaPrato’s vacation to conclude that it was inconsistent with DaPrato’s foot surgery. HR’s conclusion that going on vacation while on FMLA leave is abuse automatically was held to be incorrect as a matter of law. The company was required to conduct an individualized assessment to determine whether the vacation was consistent with the leave.