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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:In 1988, St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office hired Susan Downey to work in its corrections division. Subsequently, upon her request, the office transferred her to a position in the crime lab. In August 2000, Downey sustained a work-related injury to her knee, and in May 2001, Downey sustained injuries to her neck and shoulder in a motor vehicle accident. From Nov. 7, 2002, through March 16, 2003, Downey was on paid leave related to surgeries on her knee and shoulder; on Dec. 29, 2002, Sheriff Rodney Strain notified Downey that he was designating this as her leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, effective Dec. 29, 2002. Strain charged Downey with 424 hours of FMLA leave for the period from Dec. 29, 2002, through March 17, 2003. This left Downey with 52 hours of FMLA leave remaining through Dec. 28, 2003, the last day of the 365-day FMLA leave period. On June 18, 2003, Downey injured her left knee in a work-related incident, but she continued to perform her duties through July 29, 2003. During this period, she used eight hours of her FMLA leave, which left her with 44 hours. To have surgery related to the June 18, 2003, injury, Downey took a second period of leave beginning July 30, 2003, and lasting through Oct. 3, 2003. Strain charged Downey with FMLA leave for this period, though he did not specifically notify her that he would do so. As of Aug. 7, 2003, Downey had exhausted her 480 hours of FMLA leave. As a result of the other leave Strain provided, Downey was on paid leave through Oct. 3, 2003. When Downey returned to work, she was reassigned to the corrections division. In her new position, she did not have some of the fringe benefits she had in her previous position, such as overtime pay and the use of a car. Downey sued Strain in his official capacity, alleging violations of the FMLA and several other statutes. The district court entered an order granting summary judgment in favor of Strain on most of Downey’s claims, but it denied summary judgment on her claim that Strain interfered with her rights under the FMLA, in violation of 29 U.S.C. �2615(a)(1), by failing to provide her with individualized written notice that the July 2003 leave would be designated as FMLA leave, as required by FMLA regulations. Downey contended that, had she been notified that her July 2003 leave would be counted as FMLA leave, she would have postponed her knee surgery to a time when it would not have caused her to exceed her FMLA allowance. The district court entered an amended order noting that it was undisputed that Downey did not receive individualized written notice that the July 2003 leave would be treated as FMLA leave and leaving for the jury the question of whether Downey was actually prejudiced by the lack of notice. The district court instructed the jury that to prove prejudice, Downey had to show that: 1. she could have delayed the knee surgery from July 31, 2003, until Dec. 22, 2003; 2. during this period, she would have been able to perform her full duties in the crime lab; and 3. either it would not have been necessary for her to take any FMLA leave during this period, or if it was, the leave would not have exceeded five and a half work days and for each such day taken she would have been able to delay her absence for surgery by an additional day. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Downey and awarded her $16,400 in compensatory back pay. The district court then awarded Downey two years of front pay in the amount of $13,128 as well as reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. Although Strain made a motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a) as a matter of law at the close of evidence, he did not make a Rule 50(b) motion or a Rule 59 motion for a new trial after the jury’s verdict. On appeal, Strain asserted that: 1. because the regulations requiring employers to provide individualized notice that leave will be counted as FMLA leave are invalid, the district court erred in concluding that Downey did not receive sufficient notice regarding her July 2003 leave; and 2. the jury ignored significant evidence when it reached its conclusion that Downey was prejudiced by the lack of notice. Downey cross-appealed, arguing that the district court abused its discretion by awarding Downey only two years of front pay. HOLDING:Affirmed. First, the court addressed Downey’s complaint that Strain interfered with her rights under the FMLA when Strain failed to provide her with individualized notice, as required by FMAL regulations, that the July 2003 leave would be counted against her FMLA leave allowance. The court held that because Downey showed that Strain’s noncompliance with the individualized notice regulations impaired her ability to exercise her rights under the FMLA and thereby caused her prejudice, enforcement of the notice regulations in Downey’s situation was consistent with the FMLA’s remedial scheme. Thus, the court found that the notice regulations were not arbitrary, capricious or manifestly contrary to the FMLA and were valid as enforced in the case. Second, the court reviewed Strain’s claim that the jury erred when it found that Downey was prejudiced by Strain’s failure to provide her with notice regarding her second period of absence. Strain argued that the jury either ignored or rejected testimony by Downey’s treating physician showing that Downey would have been unable to perform her job duties had she postponed her knee surgery until after Dec. 22, 2003. The court found, however, that Strain waived his right to appeal on the grounds of sufficiency of the evidence, because he did not file a motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b) for judgment as a matter of law after the jury’s verdict. Third, Downey argued that the district court erred in awarding her only two years of front pay. In setting the award at two years, the district court gave three reasons: 1. the uncertainty inherent in employment in a political office; 2. the fact that Downey had previously sought transfer from the crime lab; and 3. the speculative nature of front pay. Downey argued that the district court’s reliance on each of these factors was improper. She contended that her employment was stable, noting that she had been employed in the sheriff’s office for 18 years. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding Downey two years of front pay. The district court’s examination, the court stated, of the likelihood that the political nature of the sheriff’s office would impact the permanency of Downey’s job was a proper part of the “intelligent guesswork” it had to conduct. OPINION:Prado, J.; Davis, Barksdale and Prado, JJ.

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