HARRISBURG – A federal judge on Jan. 4 dismissed a Family and Medical Leave Act claim lodged against former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who was recently found guilty of perjury and other criminal charges and was sentenced in October to up to 23 months in prison..
Judge Sylvia H. Rambo of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania dropped the FMLA claim in an ongoing lawsuit filed last April against Kane by special agent in charge of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation officer Kevin Wevodau, who provided information in the investigation that ultimately led to Kane's corruption conviction.
The petition accused the now disgraced former state official of retaliating against Wevodau for taking FMLA leave.
Even as the court found that Wevodau being placed on paid administrative leave for a year with no definitive timeframe for his return to work amounted to an adverse employment action because it deprived him of the opportunity to actively advance his career, ultimately the judge ruled that because he did not attempt to return to work until five weeks after his FMLA leave had expired, he was no longer entitled to the provisions and protections of the act.
The judge added that the courts strictly interpret the tenets of the FMLA law and even though Wevodau had received an extension from his bosses to prolong his leave beyond the designated 12-week period, as a matter of law, he had forfeited all his rights under the statute.
The judge also ordered that the remainder of Wevodau’s whistleblower claim be remanded to state court.
“I think the court ruled as it did and wrote its opinion as such because the employee not returning to work for such an extended period was a dispositive fact," Emily Edmunds, a labor and employee attorney with Saul Ewing LLP, told the Pennsylvania Record.
“I think that weighed heavily.”
Wevodau’s attorney Christine Burke, from the firm of Karpf Karpf & Cerutti PC, immediately announced she plans to seek reconsideration “and if unsuccessful, an appeal to the Third Circuit.”
Wevodau first went on medical leave in June 2015 and remained idled for at least a year before taking any related legal action. He claims he was medically cleared by doctors in October 2015, but was denied the right to return to his post and instead placed on “administrative leave,” with no purpose or reason being expressed to him as to why that decision was made.
At some point after Kane realized he had testified against her in at least two different instances, Wevodau alleges he was invited to her home and immediately ordered to remove his phone, presumably so the conversation between the two could not be recorded.
Wevodau adds he was then endlessly pressured to resign his post.
“I think he would have had a stronger case if he had returned to work in a more timely manner,” said Edmunds, adding that she can’t be certain if Wevodau has the grounds for an appeal. “Without knowing more of the intricate details of the case, that’s a tough question to answer.”
Following a week-long trial, Kane was found guilty late last summer of perjury stemming from her hastily ordered shutdown of a three-year sting operation targeting some of her Democratic colleagues.