Today's BrokeAndBroker.com Blog publishes a commentary about a recent FINRA intra-industry arbitration pitting an associated person against her former firm, Invesco Distributors, Inc., as a result of her allegedly wrongful termination. A centerpiece of this dispute is the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Case In Point
In a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ("FINRA") Arbitration Statement of Claim filed in April 2016 and amended thereafter, Claimant Marchel asserted violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1992 ("FMLA"), wrongful termination, and breach of contract in connection with her purported wrongful termination by Respondent Invesco after she requested FMLA leave. Claimant requested in excess of $5,000,000.00 in compensatory damages, $198,360.00 in commissions, costs, interest, attorneys' fees.. In the Matter of the FINRA Arbitration Between Laurie B. Marchel , Claimant, vs. Invesco Distributors, Inc., Respondent (FINRA Arbitration 16-01070, March 17, 2017).
Respondent Invesco generally denied the allegations and asserted various affirmative defenses.
The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Eligible employees are entitled to:
Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:
the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
to care for the employee's spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee's spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on "covered active duty;" or
Twenty-six workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the servicemember's spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).
Respondent Invesco moved for leave to take Claimant's deposition in December, 2016, which the FINRA Arbitration Panel denied without prejudice in January 2017. At the close of Claimant's case in chief, Respondent moved for a directed verdict, which the Panel denied without prejudice.
The FINRA Arbitration Panel found Respondent Invesco liable to and ordered it to pay to Claimant Marchel $305,800 in compensatory damages plus $77,000 in attorneys fees pursuant to the FMLA.
Bill Singer's Comment
According to online FINRA BrokerCheck records as of March 22, 2017, Marchel was first registered in 1988 and was registered with Invesco Distributors from July 2014 through September 2015.
The FINRA Arbitration Decision does not provide any meaningful details about the underlying FMLA issues, which may be a concession to the Claimant, who might have preferred to not divulge various personal issues attendant to her claims. On the other hand, the dearth of substantive facts may simply reflect FINRA's default approach when presenting industry employment disputes in its published decisions. The downside of such a minimalist Decision is that other similarly situated industry employees are deprived of an opportunity to fully understand what impermissible conduct occurred and, in some cases, to compare this adjudicated arbitration to their developing situation. If such a dispute was litigated in court, barring an order sealing the file or imposing confidentiality on the parties, the Complaint, Answer, and all pertinent papers would be part of a public file.