Arkansas Firefighter Claims FMLA Retaliation Over Changes to Shift Trade Policy

A former Arkansas firefighter has filed suit claiming he was retaliated against for having used a combination of intermittent leave under the Family Medical Leave Act and shift-trades to care for his dying child.

Eric Andersen filed suit against the Springdale Fire Department and several chief officers last week in federal court. According to the complaint, in response to Andersen having used intermittent FMLA leave coupled with a large number of shift trades to allow him to accompany his child to St. Jude’s Hospital and on a Make-A-Wish trip, the department implemented a new shift-trade policy that limited shift-trades to a maximum of 240 hours per member per year.

Andersen claims the new shift-trade policy was implemented as a form of retaliation for his having used FMLA leave. He also claims that once the policy change was announced, he was subjected to such hostility from his coworkers that he was forced to resign. Andersen’s child died in August, 2017, of brain cancer.

From the complaint:

  • Upon information and belief, the June 2017 policy change regarding shift-swaps was a direct attack on Eric and the amount of leave time he took under FMLA and when using shift-swaps to care for his child or attend training classes.
  • Many of Eric’s co-workers were angry by the policy change and began to ostracize Eric.
  • Since the policy change, Eric has been ostracized by his co-workers to the point that friendships were lost and trust was compromised.
  • Since the announcement of the policy, Eric has been treated with such contempt that his continued employment was intolerable and he was forced to find work elsewhere.

Andersen is seeking damages for back pay and lost wages going forward, an injunction against the department prohibiting future FMLA violations, and interest, costs and attorney’s fees.

Here is a copy of the complaint: Andersen v Springdale

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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