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Seventh Circuit Holds Contested Absences under FMLA Must Be Litigated Within Two Years of Absence

Illinois Department of Corrections (COC) employee Cindy Barrett was terminates after accruing 12 unauthorized absences over 7 years. DOC subjected employees to termination after accumulating 12 unauthorized absences, but expunged all previous unauthorized absences if the employee had no unauthorized absences for 24 consecutive months. Barrett failed to accumulate the necessary 24 months without an unauthorized absence.

Barrett sought review of the termination before the Illinois Civil Service Commission. An administrative law judge recommended sustaining the termination and the commission adopted the recommendation. Barrett did not raise any issues regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 260i et seq., before the commission.

Barrett then filed suit its federal court alleging the DOC violated her rights under the FMLA. The three absences she claimed were for family or medical leave were all over five years old at the time of the termination. The court held that elapsed time barred by the FNLA's ten-year statute of limitations and entered judgment for the DOC. Barrett appealed.

Rejecting Barrett's arguments, the Seventh Circuit held that the two-year limitations period rules from when the absence occurs, not from when it is used to justify termination. Therefore, the district court's judgment was affirmed. See: Barrett v. Illinois Department of Corrections, 7th Cir., No. 13-2833.

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Related legal case

Barrett v. Illinois Department of Corrections