Court Allows Former AGC’s FMLA Claim Against Pittsburgh Metal Companies to Proceed

On September 22, 2021, a Pennsylvania judge denied two Pittsburgh metal companies’ motion to dismiss claims in a COVID-19 leave case filed by their former Assistant General Counsel.  Daniel Burbach Jr., former AGC for Arconic Corp. and Howmet Aerospace claims that the companies should have granted him sick leave for COVID-19 under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) rather than firing him.

Burbach was hired by Arconic in February 2020 as the company attempted to split into separate companies, each focusing more heavily on Arconic’s two specialties, rolled aluminum and engineering products.  Burbach claims that he was employed by both companies when he was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 20, 2020.  Although Burbach requested and received medical leave, the companies did not inform him of his right to take protected leave pursuant to the FMLA.  Burbach alleges that while he was on bed rest, the companies continued to send him work to perform.

By the end of March, Burbach requested permission to work remotely from Slovenia, where his wife’s family could take care of their children and he could receive continuing treatment for his condition.  Burbach states that while this leave was initially granted, the companies quickly revoked it and fired him in April 2020.

Arconic argued that the firing was not retaliatory because Burbach had not invoked his rights under the FMLA and did not have a condition that qualified for coverage under the ADA. The court dispensed with both arguments, ruling that Burbach should have been afforded FMLA leave when he requested medical leave for his COVID-19 symptoms.  Further, the court held he alleged a claim under the ADA because he alleged that his symptoms caused significant physical impairment that limited his ability to perform major life activities

Executives requesting medical and family leave – for COVID-19 and other medical conditions – need to be aware of their rights under federal, state, and local law and company policy to protected leave, reinstatement, and protection from interference and retaliation.  Executives who believe they have been denied medical leave, accommodations or reinstatement or have been retaliated against for taking medical or family leave should engage counsel to ensure they are afforded the rights to which they are entitled.