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Simply Requesting FMLA Leave Can Prompt a Retaliation Claim

Brenda Erdman began working full time for Nationwide Insurance Co. in 1980. In 1998, she asked to work reduced hours in order to care for her daughter, who was born with Down Syndrome. As a part-time employee, she accrued unofficial "comp time," working overtime outside the office in exchange for extra vacation time. She was known as an efficient, productive worker.

But in 2003, Erdman's supervisor informed her that the part-time position would be eliminated, and that she would have to take a full-time job again. Erdman took the new position, but the company claims she became angry, erratic and insubordinate. The company also said she could no longer take off the month of August, during which she normally prepared her daughter for school, even though the vacation time had already been approved.

"Because [Nationwide] didn't force her to submit an accurate record of her hours worked, they let that become a disputed fact in the litigation," Reed Smith Partner Michael Jones says.

The decision underscores the importance of tracking work hours, particularly when employees work at home, have a flex- or part-time schedule or use BlackBerrys away from the office, Jones says.

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Christopher Danzig

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