The Texas Supreme Court ruled that an employer was not at fault for firing an injured worker after his Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits expired. Jorge Melendez worked for Kings Aire Inc., a family-owned heating, ventilation and air-conditioning company in El Paso, Texas. He suffered a serious injury during demolition work which cut two tendons and the median nerve. Melendez filed a workers compensation claim, and Kings Aire informed him that he was entitled to up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave in the calendar year under FMLA, which he took beginning retroactively the day after his accident. Since he had not yet been cleared to return to work when his FMLA leave expired, Melendez was informed on that his employment had been terminated pursuant to company policy.
The case pivots upon whether or not Melendez’s termination was retaliation for his filing of a workers’ comp claim. In the decision, the judges explain: “the trial evidence showed that Kings Aire terminated Melendez pursuant to uniform enforcement of a reasonable leave policy. Melendez presented no evidence to support his assertions that the policy was not uniformly enforced, that his termination was not required by such uniform enforcement, or that Kings Aire’s stated reason for discharging him was false. Accordingly, legally insufficient evidence supports the jury’s finding that Kings Aire terminated Melendez because he filed a workers’ compensation claim in good faith.”