Professor Janet Smith
Employment Law BA370
1 August 2011
BACHELDER V. AMERICAN WEST AIRLINES
The legal issue in this case is Penny Bachelder claims her employer, America West Airlines, violated the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA" or "the Act") when it terminated her in 1996 for poor attendance. Bachelder countered that according to the regulations implementing the FMLA, she was entitled to have her leave eligibility calculated by the method most favorable to her. Under a calendar year method of calculating leave eligibility, she contended, her February 1996 absences were protected by the FMLA, and America West had violated the Act by relying on those absences in deciding to fire her. The district court granted partial summary judgment to America West, holding that Bachelder was not entitled to the Act's protection for her 1996 absences. Bachelder appealed the district court's subsequent finding, after a bench trial, that, in deciding to fire her, America West did not impermissibly consider FMLA-protected leave she took in 1994 and 1995.
America West Airlines employee hand book did provide guidance as to FMLA, however, it did not specifically addresses the method it would use, it only addressed the method used would be beneficial to the employee. The regulations allow employers to choose among four methods for calculating their employees' eligibility for FMLA leave, but they do not specifically state how an employer indicates its choice. America West contended the FMLA's implementing regulations do not expressly embody a requirement that employers inform their employees of their chosen method for calculating leave eligibility. The regulations nonetheless plainly contemplate that the employer's selection of one of the four calculation methods will be an open one, not a secret kept from the employees, the affected individuals. America West failed to fulfill its obligation to inform employees of their choice for a...
Cited: Walsh, J., David. Employment Law for Human Resource
Practice. 3rd. Mason, OH: South-Western Pub, 2010.
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