A Grand Rapids federal court jury has awarded $105,000 to a former employee of a cable company.
Carmen Kidd worked in Charter Communications' Walker location for more than 10 years, where she held positions in customer service and as a supervisor.
Kidd was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was initially granted intermittent leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, as a result of the disease. Later, she was granted short-term disability.
While on short-term disability, Kidd was fired from her position with Charter based on the company’s call-in policy. Kidd and her attorneys held that she was exempt from having to call in, because she was on approved disability leave.
Attorneys Brad Glazier and Carole Bos, from the firm Bos & Glazier in Grand Rapids, began working with Kidd in May 2013, representing her in the suit against Charter.
“At the suggestion from Charter, she took a disability leave of absence and started collecting disability payments,” Glazier said. “They ended up terminating her during that disability leave saying she had abandoned her job.
“Charter had a policy that said if you miss two or more days of work and you don’t call in, you can be terminated for job abandonment. That was the reason Charter gave for her termination.”
The plaintiff’s position was that Kidd had been wrongfully terminated based on FMLA laws.
“Once Carmen started her disability leave, she let Charter know, and said she’d be off work until Aug. 12, because that is when the disability leave was scheduled to end,” Glazier said. “Our position was that the call-in rules didn’t apply to her, because of those unique circumstances where she was receiving disability pay for a continuous period of time.”
The jury agreed, finding in favor of Kidd on May 29 and awarding her $105,000 in lost wages and benefits from the date of her termination through the date of trial.
Glazier said U.S. Judge Robert Jonker, of the Western District of Michigan, who presided over the case, has discretion to double the sum, which could happen later this summer.
“Under the FMLA, unless the employer can show good cause for the decision it made, the employee is entitled to liquidated damages equal to the amount of the back pay and the interest that has accrued,” Glazier said. “So that $105,000, there is about $5,000 of interest that will be added, to bring it to $110,000, and then that amount gets doubled to $220,000.”
The judge can also award attorney fees.
Additionally, Glazier said Jonker will decide whether Kidd should be reinstated at Charter. If she is not reinstated, she could be awarded front pay.
Once the judgment is entered, Charter can either pay the judgment or appeal the case.
“Our client Carmen Kidd felt very vindicated by the jury’s verdict, and we hope this decision will impress upon employers the importance of following FMLA rules and regulations,” Glazier said.