BNA reported that US District Judge Carlos Murguia turned away requests by attorneys for Hallmark Cards Inc., to throw out Audeana Connel’s suit. According to the suit, the company retaliated against her for taking Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) time off.
The judge cited the following evidence that he said could be viewed as supporting Connel’s claim:
- Hallmark cut off Connel’s short-term disability payments after a co-worker spotted her at a fair when she had told her supervisor that she was feeling ill, and
- the company didn’t require her to get a doctor’s certification that she was healthy before returning to work
The 4-H Fair
According to court papers, Connel called in sick in August 2000 with a migraine headache. Her doctor certified that she was having severe tension headaches and cervical spasms and the company began paying short-term disability on August 2.
A week later, she was spotted at the local 4-H Fair by a Hallmark manager who took pictures of her with a company camera.
The company kicked off an investigation during which the company doctor determined that Connel should have been able to perform light duty at work. The company informed her that she could continue her leave but that her disability payments would be discontinued.
Connel returned to work the next day. Meanwhile, the company continued its investigation and determined that if Connel’s headache was severe enough to keep her from work, it should have also kept her from attending the fair and, in November she was fired.
The case is Connel v. Hallmark Cards, Inc.