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  • October
    29
    2012

    Appeals Court Clarifies Limitations Period under State's Family and Medical Leave Act

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    Appeals Court Clarifies Limitations Period under State’s Family and Medical Leave Act

    By org jforward wisbar Joe Forward, Legal Writer, State Bar of Wisconsin

    Appeals Court Clarifies Limitations Period 
under State’s Family and Medical Leave Act Oct. 29, 2012 – A state appeals court recently ruled that Robert Hoague was not barred from filing a complaint seeking damages against his employer for violations of the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act and clarified the limitations period in such cases.

    The Wisconsin Equal Rights Division found that Kraft Foods Global Inc. violated Hoague’s right to medical leave and awarded nearly $19,000 in back pay and benefits. Neither party petitioned for rehearing or judicial review, but Hoague filed a civil complaint 88 days later.

    Under Wis. Stat. section 103.10(13), an employee can file civil actions in circuit court against an employer to recover damages for family and medical leave act violations “after the completion of an administrative proceeding, including judicial review, concerning the same violation.”

    But the action must be commenced within 60 days of completion of the administrative hearing or 12 months after the violation occurred, whichever is later. The circuit court dismissed Hoague’s complaint as untimely under the 60-day limitation. Hoague appealed.

    In Hoague v. Kraft Foods Global Inc., 2012AP133 (Oct. 25, 2012), the District IV Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed while clarifying when the section 103.10(13) limitations period begins in cases where an employer does not seek judicial review of an agency decision.

    Kraft argued that Hoague did not timely file the complaint because the limitations period began when the Equal Rights Division issued its order. Hoague argued the clock began 30 days later, the end date of the time to petition for rehearing or judicial review of the division’s decision.

    Noting the statute is ambiguous, the appeals court agreed with Hoague, concluding that “the more reasonable interpretation of the statute” gives employees 60 days “after expiration of the time for seeking judicial review of the agency’s order in the employee’s favor.”

    “This interpretation more reasonably reflects the practicalities of the two-stage process created by the legislature,” wrote Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg for the three-judge panel.