In McTigue v. Spokane Transit Authority, No. CV-04-064-FVS, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74873 (E.D.Wash. Oct. 16, 2006) the court found that the employer's repeated warnings to Mr. McTigue that he would be disciplined if he continued to miss work without authorization failed to demonstrate that the employer interfered with the employee's FMLA rights because unfulfilled warnings do not constitute adverse actions, a necessary element of an FMLA interference claim in the Ninth Circuit. In that case, the employee's request for FMLA leave for heart by-pass surgery was granted. He was absent from February 18, 2001, until October 24, 2002. Between that date and June 15, 2006, he missed over 300 additional days of work. Some absences were covered by the FMLA; many were not. The warnings involved these latter absences.
Comment: To establish an FMLA interference claim many courts require that the employee initially prove that they suffered from an adverse employment action. There is a split in the federal appellate courts whether an adverse action requires, for example, issuance of discipline or whether a threat to issue discipline is sufficient. The McTigue decision ignores the FMLA's definition of "interference" with the exercise of FMLA rights as discouraging an employee from using FMLA leave. An employee who was repeated threatened with discipline for taking, in some instances, FMLA leave would appear to fall within the FMLA's protection from interference. All federal sector variants of the FMLA prohibit employers from making intimidating, threatening, or coercive actions for exercising FMLA rights.