signing-contract

A former Boscov’s employee’s settlement of workers’ compensation claims does not prohibit him from bringing a Family and Medical Leave Act suit against the department store, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held in a precedential opinion Monday that Craig Zuber could pursue an FMLA case against the Reading-based retailer over an allegedly retaliatory firing that he claims was based on his medical leave from a work injury.

Boscov’s argued that Zuber waived his rights to pursue further litigation against the company after he signed a compromise and release agreement in July 2015. The district court agreed and granted Boscov’s motion to dismiss.

However, Third Circuit Judge Joseph A. Greenaway Jr. said the language of the agreement, which states that it is a final resolution of the work injury claim “and its sequela,” doesn’t necessarily disallow Zuber’s FMLA suit. “Sequela, a singular noun, means a ‘suit,’” Greenaway explained in the court’s opinion. “As a result, the sentence only prohibits Zuber from bringing an additional ‘work injury claim’ suit. Here, Zuber seeks to bring a suit against Boscov’s for failing to notify him of his FMLA rights, for not designating his leave as FMLA protected, and for firing him for exercising his FMLA rights and workers’ compensation claim.”

He continued, “Zuber is not bringing an additional ‘work injury claim,’ such as a workers’ compensation claim or a tort. Therefore, the [compromise and release] does not prohibit his claim.”

Boscov’s argued that “sequela” means not just a single suit but any and all claims arising out of an injury.

But Greenaway said the court rejected that definition and moved on to analyze the structure of the agreement.

“Because of the C&R’s ordinary meaning and structure, we hold that the C&R is unambiguously a specific and limited release rather than a general release. When Zuber signed the C&R, he merely released his right to bring a future workers’ compensation claim against Boscov’s. Consequently, it does not prohibit Zuber from bringing FMLA or Pennsylvania common law claims against Boscov’s,” Greenaway said.

Boscov’s is represented by Alexander Ross of Rakoski & Ross in Marlton, New Jersey.

“My client Boscov’s is disappointed with the ruling and is weighing its options as to what actions it will take,” Ross said. “We respectfully disagree with the decision of the Third Circuit and believe that the district court judge made the correct ruling in his original decision and on the reconsideration motion.”

Zuber’s lawyer, Joshua Boyette of Swartz Swidler in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, did not respond to a request for comment.