Discourteous “Welcome Back” by Employers after Employee’s Return from FMLA Leave Does Not Constitute Retaliation
An employer is not required to give an employee returning from FMLA leave a courteous welcome back. In Checa v. Drexel Univ., plaintiff Debra Checa took FMLA leave following surgery and the death of her mother. CV 16-108, 2016 WL 3548517, at *1 (E.D. Pa. June 28, 2016). Upon returning to work at Drexel University College of Medicine, Checa had a meeting with two of her coworkers regarding her transition back to work and her failure to complete certain tasks before she took leave. After being criticized for her performance prior to taking leave and not being offered condolences for the passing of her mother, Checa stood up in the meeting and said she quit and then later emailed a Doctor at the college and again reiterated her intention to quit. Checa then attempted to retract her resignation the next morning but the College refused to accept it.
Following the College’s refusal to accept the retraction of her resignation, Checa brought an FMLA retaliation claim against the College. To prevail on a FMLA retaliation claim, the plaintiff must prove that (1) she invoked her right to FMLA-qualifying leave, (2) she suffered an adverse employment decision, and (3) the adverse action was causally related to her invocation of rights. Id. Checa argued that both the “first day back” meeting and Drexel’s refusal to allow her to rescind her resignation the next day qualify as adverse employment actions.
The Court held that the “first day back” meeting did not qualify as an adverse employment action for several reasons. First, the meeting did not alter her terms or conditions of employment nor did attending this meeting significantly impact her ability to work or advance in her career. Checa also did not suffer a change in job title with less prestige, a suspension of pay, or a change in work schedule. Lastly, the Court held that the employer’s refusal to accept Checa’s rescinded resignation is not an adverse employment action because they were under no contractual or statutory to do so nor was there a constructive discharge in this instance. Thus, the Court granted Drexel’s motion for summary judgment.