Jury Must Decide Adequacy of Bank's Leave Notice

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By Jon Steingart

June 28 — The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond may have interfered with a former project manager's right to job-protected medical leave to tend to his depression and alcoholism when it gave him insufficient details about his rights, a federal appeals court ruled ( Vannoy v. Fed. Reserve Bank of Richmond , 2016 BL 206464, 4th Cir., No. 14-2375, 6/28/16 ).

The ruling is a reminder for employers that the Family and Medical Leave Act requires them to provide information about the extent of their protection. At the same time, defective notice isn't enough to form the basis for a lawsuit because the mistake must actually cause a problem.

The notice the bank said it sent John Vannoy didn't explain “his right to job restoration at the conclusion of his medical leave,” Judge G. Steven Agee wrote June 28 for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. His early return from an inpatient rehabilitation program suggests he might have conducted his treatment differently if he knew he was entitled to more time off, Agee said

Jury Will Assess Credibility

Agee primarily based his conclusion on Vannoy's deposition testimony in which he said knowing about his right to reinstatement “would have made a huge difference because I wouldn’t have been so fearful of losing my job.” That Vannoy later completed an inpatient program after he left his job at the Fed adds credibility to this statement, Agee said. He was joined by Judges James A. Wynn Jr. and Thomas D. Schroeder.

“Assessment of the credibility of these statements, and any countervailing evidence, rests squarely within the purview of the trier of fact,” Agee said, reversing summary judgment to the bank.

The Law Offices of Mary Ann Kelly represented Vannoy. Jackson Lewis PC represented the Federal Reserve Bank.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Steingart in Washington at jsteingart@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com

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