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Appellate Court Upholds FMLA Verdict

A suburban school administrator will keep the $12,000 she won in a suit against Northwest Township District 214 after an appeals court agreed that officials at Wheeling High School failed to follow federal rules and offer her time away from work to deal with mental health issues. Noemi Valdivia cited indifference to racial abuse in changing jobs in the district and began suffering bouts of depression after transferring from Elk Grove High in 2016. She routinely discussed her symptoms with higher-ups before eventually submitting her resignation.

Upon being hospitalized with anxiety disorder less than a month later, Valdivia sued the district for violating the Family Medical Leave Act that offers workers up to 12 weeks of job-protected absence to deal with such issues. After a jury trial, the district sought to dismiss the suit on procedural grounds and appealed when that motion was denied. Appellate judges in the 7th Circuit weren’t convinced, citing case law that says employees need not be diagnosed in order to qualify for FMLA benefits.