The appeals court reversed a Northern Mississippi federal court judgment in favor of the Oxford-based utility on whether Towns gave adequate notice for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.
“Fact issues remain,” the three-judge panel decided, reversing Chief District Judge Michael P. Mills’ March 2011 ruling and sending the case back to him.
Towns’ lead attorney, Jim Waide of Tupelo, said he was pleased with the reversal.
Towns joined NEMEPA as a cashier in 2006. Her arm and hands pain and swelling was diagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome Sept. 12, 2007.
She filed a worker’s compensation claim, which was denied after another doctor told her she had a pre-existing bone disease.
About four months later, she arranged for short-term disability through her employer and was referred to another doctor, who released her to light duty status with restrictions on the use of her arms.
When she attempted to return to work, she couldn’t perform her duties because she could not lift her left arm.
Towns claimed she regularly updated her employer, but on Dec. 26, 2007, she was fired via letter, stating, “we no longer have a position available to you.”
Ultimately, new doctors diagnosed her with carpal tunnel, she underwent surgery and filed her lawsuit.
Mills denied Towns’ claims and concluded that she failed to provide the utility with enough notice that she was entitled to a leave under the FMLA.
In her appeal, Towns’ attorneys argue that she gave NEMEPA enough information for the utility to grant her FMLA leave or to ask about her need for leave before firing her.
The utility argues she never tried to pursue that leave but chose short-term disability instead and failed to comply with company leave-policy notice.