A man walks into the woods with a gun and sits in a comfortable chair already set up in a blind. An hour earlier that Monday, 2 ½ hours into his shift, he told his employer he was in severe pain and could not perform his work duties. Because the employee’s FMLA requests tended to straddle weekends and holidays, the employer had hired a private investigator to tail him. The investigator tracked the man’s entry into the woods. The investigator had also reported observing the employee hunting one day the prior week while on FMLA leave for a strained back.
The company terminated the hunter for fraudulently claiming FMLA leave. The hunter sued, claiming interference with his FMLA rights and retaliation against him for exercising those rights. He denied abusing FMLA and hunting after he left work that Monday. Turner v. Parker-Hannifin Corp. (W.D. MI, April 12, 2012).
The hunter survived his employer’s motion for summary judgment. The court said that the investigator’s report did not indicate whether the hunter’s activities were inconsistent with his doctor’s restrictions that he not bend, twist or lift heavy objects. “The determination of whether it was reasonable for the Company to simply equate hunting with the ability to work without considering what was involved in either activity is a question of fact” for the jury, the court said.