This week the Indiana Supreme Court held that an employee f illing multiple positions with the same employer is eligible for leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act if that employee’s total service is sufficient to qualify – even if service in either position alone does not qualify.
Tom Powell taught math at Lew Wallace High School in Gary, Indiana, since 1987. From 1987 to 1999, Powell served as an assistant football coach, and in 2000, he was promoted to head football coach. Beginning in 1995, Powell also served as assistant basketball coach at Lew Wallace. For the 2001–2002 school year, Powell was under contract as a math teacher, night school teacher, and head football coach. <p “>After injuring his leg twice and taking seven weeks leave as a result, the board of Gary Community School Corporation (GCSC) fired him from his head football coaching position and replaced him with the assistant coach. After unsuccessfully reapplying for the head coach position twice in 2002 and 2003, Powell brought an action alleging that GCSC violated the Family and Medical Leave Act by failing to restore him as coach for the 2001 season and by retaliating against him for taking FMLA leave by rejecting him as head football coach in subsequent years. Powell and GCSC both moved for summary judgment on several issues, including whether Powell’s leave was covered by the FMLA. The trial court granted summary judgment for Powell on this issue and concluded that GCSC had violated the FMLA by failing to reinstate Powell as head football coach in 2001. Damages for failure to reinstate remained for trial along with Powell’s separate claim that GCSC had retaliated for taking FMLA leave. The trial resulted in an award of damages totaling $280,200.20 for the failure to reinstate and the 3 retaliation claims. The trial court reduced the award to $188,919.29 and added prejudgment interest of $18,274 and attorneys fees of $125,000. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that Powell was not eligible for FMLA leave.