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Workers' Rights Clinic Prevails Against Motion to Dismiss

NOVEMBER 5, 2008—A court order denying the defendent's motion to dismiss came out on October 31 in a Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) case being handled by the Law School's Workers' Rights Clinic. The Clinic's Student Director Ashley Davis-Alteri ('09) handled the briefing and presented oral arguments before Judge John R. Tunheim ('80) of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. Civil Practice Clinic Student Director Amy Urberg ('09) assisted with the briefing and worked on the case as a 2008 Summer Director.

The Clinic has been representing the client, a 59-year-old woman who was terminated from her home health aid job the same day that she requested 17 days of medical leave, since May 2006. Darren Sharp ('07), as a student member of the Workers' Rights Clinic, represented the client in successfully appealing the denial of unemployment compensation after her termination.

The plaintiff subsequently brought an action alleging that in terminating her employment, the defendant interfered with her right to family medical leave and retaliated against her for requesting medical leave in violation of the FMLA and in breach of contract. Her employer moved for dismissal of the complaint, which the court denied, stating that the length of time the plaintiff requested "could plausibly have alerted" the employer that it was not an ordinary sick-day request. Moreover, the court maintained that the employer could have requested certification from her healthcare provider if it doubted the seriousness of her condition.

"Congratulations to Ashley and Amy for a job well done," says Professor Lisa Stratton, who teaches the Workers' Rights Clinic. "We are thrilled with the outcome for our client."