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Employee fired after being trapped in Gaza violence

A man who was fired from his job with a Detroit automaker in 2007 after he was stranded in Gaza has sued for discrimination. In 2007, a product engineer for a major Detroit automaker was approved for an extended leave of absence beginning June 1. Before the man left for the Middle East, the man's manager shortened his leave to three weeks because of a scheduled product build.

Soon after the man arrived in Gaza, violence broke out, stranding him in that area. The supervisor extended the man's leave through Aug. 24. On Aug. 22, however, the human resources department sent the man a letter explaining that he might be terminated unless he returned to work within five days under the company's "failing to return on or before the 'Leave Ending Date'" policy. On Aug. 24, the man and his family were evacuated from Gaza.

When he finally got a flight to the U.S. and returned to work Aug. 31, he found he had been terminated. The man sued for age and national origin workplace discrimination saying other employees were treated more generously. The automaker said that different supervisors were involved in the other cases, so the employees were not similarly situated. The district court awarded the judgment to the employer.

In June 2013, the sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision, which determined that the burden of proof under the situations the employer stated would be impossible to meet. In addition, the wording of the policy, which stated that termination "may result," itself argued against the employer's position.

If an employee feels they have been wrongfully termination, they should hire an attorney experienced in employment law. An attorney may work to determine whether the employee was indeed the victim of discrimination. The attorney may also represent them in court proceedings.

Source: HR.BLR, "When extended leave of absence isn’t enough", August 06, 2013