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Camden Police Department Did Not Violate FMLA By Visiting Officer While on FMLA Leave

By on February 21, 2017 in FMLA with 0 Comments

The Fraternal Order of Police and certain police officers challenged the City of Camden Police Department for allegedly retaliating against certain officers who complained about city policies.  One of the allegations involved the Family and Medical Leave Act.  The city initiated a policy called “directed patrols” in 2008.  That policy required officers to engage with city residents who were not suspected of any wrongdoing with the goal of obtaining information about the community and becoming more visible in the community.  Contact with individuals on directed patrols was tracked and recorded.

Several officers complained about the policy and alleged that they were then placed on a low-performer list for failure to comply with the policy.  Some were allegedly reassigned to regular patrol duty with a resultant pay decrease.  The City responded that it expected a minimum of 27 directed patrols per shift for officers on supplemental patrol and 18 for officers on regular patrol.  The City argued that it did not require an impermissible quota of arrests or citations, just a permissible quota for interactions with the public.

One officer whose performance lagged in the directed patrol policy claimed that he was approved for FMLA leave to care for his seriously ill mother in May 2009 but reprimanded for using too much time on May 27th . Then on June 17th he received a letter from a Lieutenant stating that he was being placed in the “Chronic Sick Category.”  The officer also complained that Camden staff visited him at home while on leave.  He argued that the City was interfering with his rights to use FMLA leave.

The City conceded that there was an internal miscommunication between one branch of the department, which knew the officer had approved FMLA leave, and another branch which did not.  The City contended that it was not trying to deter the officer from using his FMLA rights.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals held, “Camden officials only visited Officer Holland once while he was on leave, and we agree that this was minimally intrusive.” The Court added, “Although we are sympathetic to Officer Holland’s family situation, there is no right in the FMLA to be ‘left alone.’”   It added, “Camden’s actions may have been insensitive, but they were not beyond the limitations the FMLA places on employers attempting to manage their workplaces.”

The Court went on to state that it found no particular harm done to Officer Holland.  It cited the case of Shtab v. Greate Bay Hotel, 173 F. Supp. 2d 255 (D.N.J. 2001).  “Shtab does not support Officer Holland’s claim that reprimands such as those he alleges can, on their own, support relief under the FMLA.  Rather, they must occur in tandem with actual harm.  Officer Holland does not allege he was actually denied FMLA leave.  In fact, he concedes that he was able to take time off to care for his mother.” The Court therefore affirmed the dismissal of the FMLA claim.

This case can be found at FOP v. City of Camden, 842 F.3d 231 (3d Cir. November 17, 2016).  The holding is consistent with other federal cases that have held that while someone is on FMLA, the employer has a right to require that employees call in and follow employer policies.  The Court here found that one visit to the employee probably to make sure the employee was not abusing FMLA leave was certainly not intrusive.



About the Author

About the Author:

John H. Geaney, a shareholder and co-chair of Capehart Scatchard's Workers' Compensation department, began an email newsletter entitled Currents in Workers’ Compensation, ADA and FMLA in 2001 in order to keep clients and readers informed on leading developments in these three areas of law. Since that time he has written over 500 newsletter updates.

Mr. Geaney is the author of Geaney’s New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Manual for Practitioners, Adjusters & Employers. The manual is distributed by the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education (NJICLE). He also authored an ADA and FMLA manual as distributed by NJICLE. If you are interested in purchasing the manual, please contact NJICLE at 732-214-8500 or visit their website at www.njicle.com.

Mr. Geaney represents employers in the defense of workers’ compensation, ADA and FMLA matters. He is a Fellow of the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers of the American Bar Association and is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a workers’ compensation law attorney. He is one of two firm representatives to the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network. He has served on the Executive Committee of Capehart Scatchard for over ten (10) years.

A graduate of Holy Cross College summa cum laude, Mr. Geaney obtained his law degree from Boston College Law School. He has been named a “Super Lawyer” by his peers and Law and Politics. He serves as Vice President of the Friends of MEND, the fundraising arm of a local charitable organization devoted to promoting affordable housing.

Capehart Scatchard is a full service law firm with offices in Mt. Laurel and Trenton, New Jersey. The firm represents employers and businesses in a wide variety of areas, including workers’ compensation, civil litigation, labor, environmental, business, estates and governmental affairs.


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