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Teacher May Proceed With FMLA Retaliation Claim

CHICAGO (CN) - An Illinois teacher who was fired for taking time off to care for her terminally ill parents won her appeal in the 7th Circuit against the Freeburg Community School District and its school board, whose members allegedly called the Family and Medical Leave Act "ludicrous."

The court reversed summary judgment for the school defendants, saying Debra Lewis provided enough evidence suggesting that defendants knowingly flouted the requirements of the FMLA.

At a board meeting to discuss her absences, board members allegedly discussed the FMLA "with disdain, noting that it was 'just ludicrous,' and 'it's a fiasco that you can't just say thank you for your services, goodbye' because of 'FMLA and Bill Clinton,'" the ruling states.

Based on the record, the court concluded that Lewis had offered enough evidence to survive summary judgment on her retaliation claim. A reasonable juror could find that the district fired her based on her FMLA-protected absences, and not on "performance problems," as defendants claimed.

Though Lewis may proceed with her retaliation claim, the judges affirmed dismissal of her claims for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

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