Woman says Crowley fired her after she took time off to care for her daughter with cancer

A fired Crowley Maritime employee is getting another shot at a trial.

Denise Benz is suing Crowley, claiming the Jacksonville-based shipping company fired her in retaliation for taking leave to take care of her daughter, who has cancer.

The district court originally threw out her case.

Now, she’s won her appeal.

According to the appellate court decision, Benz has a triable case after all.

Under the Family Medical Leave Act, workers are entitled to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

“The Family Medical Leave Act basically acts as a placeholder for employees. So if they go out on leave to care for themselves, to care for a loved one during a critical illness, then they know, they have the comfort of knowing that they can come back to their same job and their same benefits after that’s over,” said Morgan & Morgan attorney Ashley Winstead, who does not represent Benz.

Benz worked in Crowley’s Jacksonville warehouse for 12 years.

In 2014, Benz took off one month through FMLA to care for her daughter.

A few months later, Benz told her supervisor she would need to take more leave as her daughter’s cancer worsened.

The court says her supervisors “immediately emailed one another about the prospect of terminating Benz.”

Right before Benz was about to begin another month of FMLA leave in 2015, Crowley fired her, citing “budget cuts.”

“The employer cannot retaliate against the employee for taking the time off. In fact, there are specific laws against that,” said Winstead.

A Crowley spokesman declined Action News Jax’s request for an interview, saying the company does not discuss ongoing legal matters.

Benz’s attorney Scott Fortune said neither he nor Benz would do an interview at this time.

Fortune said they hope to go to trial within the next few months.

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