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Florida Sheriff’s Office Employee Fired for Requesting FMLA Leave - March 2011 

A Florida sheriff’s office employee was out sick for 2 days. When she returned on a Monday, she told her boss that she had a serious infection and would need to be out for regular treatments. That Friday, she submitted paperwork requesting intermittent leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The following Monday, she was fired. The employer claimed she’d been terminated for poor performance.

“Spear (the employee)” before being terminated worked for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office for more than the requisite 12 months, and there was no question in the case that she was eligible for leave under FMLA. Nor did the employer ever say that anything was lacking in her request for leave, such as missing medical certification or unclear estimates about the amount of time she expected to be out. The employer instead offered two arguments: First, it said, Spear had been fired for poor performance; the termination had nothing to do with her FMLA request. Second, she had filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), so she was precluded from suing the employer in court.

Spear claimed retaliation for her request, rather than the other possible charge, that of employer interference with her FMLA rights. In a federal district court, a jury was gathered to hear the case. It heard what was later reported to be conflicting evidence about her performance. We can guess that her periodic evaluations were all “satisfactory” or better, but the employer testified that she really wasn’t a good employee at all. So the jury awarded Spear back pay with interest, liquidated damages, 5 years of front pay, and attorneys’ fees. The sheriff’s office appealed the verdict to the 11th Circuit, which covers Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.


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November 2011 - Florida's minimum wage for non-tipped employees will increase January 1, 2012 to $7.67 an hour.  Wages for tipped employees will rise to $4.65 an hour.  Following a 2004 constitutional amendment, Florida is among 10 states that automatically raise minimum wage rates. The federal rate, now $7.25 an hour, must be raised by an act of Congress.
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