Two recent federal district courts addressed the right of federal employees bring a civil suit for violations of the FMLA. One court got it right while the other did not.
In Gibson-Michaels v. FDIC, No. 06-1940 (RMU), 2007 U.S. Dist LEXIS 32564 (D.D.C. May 3, 2007), the court rejected the employee's suit that her termination from employment with the FDIC violated the anti-retaliation provisions of the FMLA. The court dismissed the FMLA claim "because federal employees do not have a private right of action under the FMLA."
In Giesken v. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, No. 06-14901-BC, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31971 (E.D.Mich. May 2, 2007), the Court also dismissed the employee's FMLA suit. The Court initially noted that the FMLA provides a private right of action to federal employees covered by Title I of the Act, but does not provide a private right of action to civil service employees covered by Title II of the Act. As the plaintiff was a Title II employee, the Court dismissed her FMLA suit.
Comment: Whether a federal employee has the right to maintain a civil suit for monetary damages for violation of the FMLA depends on which of four federal sector variants of the FMLA apply to the employee at issue. Civil service employees do not have the right to sue in court for FMLA violations. All other non-civil service federal employees do have the right to sue for FMLA violations.
The Court in Giesken properly determined that the civil service employee did not have the right to maintain a suit for violation of the FMLA. The Court in Gibson-Michaels, in contrast, apparently did not determine the civil service status of the employee before finding that the employee had no right to sue for FMLA violations. The Court may well have been wrong. As a government corporation, if the plaintiff was not a civil service employee she would have have been covered by Title I of the FMLA. A federal employee covered by Title I has the right to sue his or her federal employer for FMLA violations.