Applying the appropriate causation standard in adjudicating alleged unlawful retaliation claims for exercising FMLA rights
Woods v. START Treatment & Recovery Ctrs., USCA, 2nd Circuit, 16-1318-cv
Cassandra Woods lost a jury trial on her claim that she was fired for exercising her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act [FMLA]. One of the two principal questions* addressed by the court in her appeal was "what is the appropriate causation standard for FMLA retaliation claims?"
The federal district court had instructed the jury that it must apply the “but for” causation standard with respect to Woods’ retaliation claims. The Second Circuit held that FMLA retaliation claims of the sort Woods brought in this case require applying a “motivating factor” causation standard.
Under the motivating factor test, an employee could prove retaliation by showing that his or her decision to report or notify the employer of possible discrimination was a motivating factor in the employer's decision to terminate the employee or take some other adverse employment action.
In contrast, under the "but-for causation" standard, the employee would have to prove that he or she would have retained his or her position or would have avoided some other adverse employment action in the absence of the employer's retaliatory intent.
The district court's decision was then vacated and remanded to the lower court for further action.
* The second principal issue addressed by the Circuit Court of Appeals: "Was Woods unduly prejudiced by the admission of adverse inferences based on her invocation of the Fifth Amendment at her deposition?"
The decision is posted on the Internet at:http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery/75dbeb99-a261-443d-8109-fd5e2161ad2e/2/doc/16-1318_opn.pdf#xml=http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery/75dbeb99-a261-443d-8109-fd5e2161ad2e/2/hilite/