The court in Lyerla v. A&A Manufacturing Co., Inc., No. 2:05-CV-286, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 75234 (N.D.Ind. Oct. 16, 2006), denied the employee's motion for summary judgment that the employer interfered with his entitlement to FMLA leave for his own serious health condition when it terminated him after learning that he attended a previously scheduled court hearing on the day he was supposed to be in FMLA leave. The evidence established that Lyerla had a court appearance scheduled for March 21. He told co-workers that he intended to call off working using an FMLA day in order to attend his March 21 court date. Plaintiff did, in fact, call off working using an FMLA day on March 21. Plaintiff's co-workers notified management that plaintiff had intended to use an FMLA day to attend court on March 21. The court found a question of material fact as to whether the Defendant honestly believed Plaintiff used his FMLA leave to attend a court hearing. The Court noted that Lyerla failed to present any evidence tending to establish that Defendant's reasons for terminating him were false or dishonest in any way.
Comment: The case came to the court in a slightly different posture than the norm. The summary judgment motion in this case was filed by employee whereas most summary judgment motions are brought by employers. The court's decision applied the honest belief defense. The defense provides that, if the employer honestly believes in the reasons it took the adverse actions that it did, the plaintiff loses even if the reasons are foolish or trivial or baseless. Because the employer did not move for summary judgment the court declined to dismiss the civil suit.