Rasul Freelain, a detective for the Village of Oak Park Police Department (“OPPD”) has been with the OPPD since 2002. In 2007, Freelain was working as a detective in the Juvenile Investigations Division while Dina Vardal was a sergeant who out ranked him. Freelain alleges that Vardal began making “romantic and/or sexual advances” towards him around that time, which he rebuffed. Freelain further alleges that Vardal then began to retaliate against and harass him through 2011, including shunning him and being rude to him in front of co-workers, among several other steamy and harassing actions including battery. Freelain’s health declined and he subsequently started using sick time.
On August 21, 2012, during a sick call out, Freelain says that a supervisor asked him if his “illness” was work related—Freelain said it was—and that he began taking medication for his migraines by the end of the month. Shortly thereafter, Freelain applied for time off under the FMLA, which was approved on September 24, 2012. Freelain claims Vardal’s conduct was the proximate cause of his need for leave. However, the OPPD labeled this leave as “self sick” /FMLA instead of “self accident” / worker’s compensation and thus Freelain was docked sick and vacation time. To add insult to injury, Freelain subsequently had a FMLA caregiver claim to care for his wife from early January to early March. Naturally, since he had been forced to use his sick and vacation for his worker’s compensation/FMLA claim, he was out of pay.
Freelain alleges that he contacted the Village on numerous occasions seeking to have his FMLA caregiver leave extended but that the Village ignored his calls and emails. Eventually, Freelain was forced to return to work on March 8, 2013, because he did not immediately receive an extension; although, Freelain was able to secure an additional FMLA leave extension in late April 2013. These actions led to the two FMLA counts below.
In short, Freelain alleges that the Village retaliated against him/interfered with the exercise of his FMLA rights by categorizing him as “self sick” and taking other actions related to his worker’s compensation.
Freelain’s allegation is not that his FMLA extension request was ever denied in full or that it was never approved, but rather, that the Village only partially approved his request and impermissiblydelayed approval. Thus, the crux of Freelain’s interference claim appears to be that Freelain had to return to work when he otherwise should have been allowed to remain at home. And this allegation, if true, would demonstrate the Village denied Freelain FMLA leave that he was entitled to take—at least for a period of time—which would in turn establish that Freelain is entitled to relief on his FMLA interference claim.
At the end of the day the court has allowed Freelain to continue forward by denying the OPPD motion for a summary judgement on the FMLA Claims. If the OPPD has any sense at all they will settle and settle quickly.
RASUL FREELAIN, Plaintiff,
VILLAGE OF OAK PARK AND DINA VARDAL, Defendants.
United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division.
January 15, 2014.