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Tampa Personal Injury Lawyers / Blog / Family and Medical Leave Act / The Eleventh Circuit Issues Precedent Limiting FMLA Protection: Tristan Tanner v. Stryker

The Eleventh Circuit Issues Precedent Limiting FMLA Protection: Tristan Tanner v. Stryker


In June 2024, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a controversial decision in the Tanner v. Stryker case, which could have far-reaching implications for employees across the nation. The case presents a troubling precedent, narrowly reading the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in such a way that will force some employees to choose between being present for significant family moments, such as the birth of a child, and avoiding absences that might jeopardize their employment.

Background of the Case

Tristan Tanner, a former employee of Stryker and a Florin Gray client, found himself in a precarious situation when he needed time off from his job in Florida to be present for the birth of his child in Connecticut. After getting approval from his employer for FMLA leave, Tanner traveled to Connecticut in the days leading up to the expected delivery date. The birth was ultimately delayed for several weeks. And the day after his child’s birth, Stryker terminated Tanner’s employment, citing the absences awaiting the birth after the due date as the reason. Tanner filed a lawsuit, arguing that his termination was unjust and violated his rights under the FMLA, which provides protected leave for the birth of a child.

The Court’s Decision

The Eleventh Circuit Court ruled in favor of Stryker, stating that the FMLA leave for the birth of a child did not provide any protected leave for absences incurred prior to the actual date of the child’s birth (unless the mother experienced medical complications). The Court reasoned, therefore, that Stryker’s actions did not violate the FMLA and that Tanner’s absences, despite being necessary to ensure his presence at the birth of his child, were grounds for dismissal.

Left unanswered in the Court’s opinion is how Tanner could have both avoided unexcused absences from his job in Florida while simultaneously ensuring his FMLA right to be present at the birth of his child in Connecticut.

Why the Court Got it Wrong

Florin Gray respectfully contends that the Eleventh Circuit misinterpreted the protections afforded to employees under the FMLA. The FMLA serves a critical purpose, protecting employees in exactly the types of situations that Tanner faced and ensuring that they can take leave necessary for family and medical reasons without fear of losing their jobs. By siding with Stryker, the Eleventh Circuit has undermined one key purpose of the FMLA and eliminated the ability of some parents that work far from an anticipated place of birth to take FMLA-protected absences to be present for the birth of a child.

  1. Undermining Family Values: This decision sends a troubling message that work should take precedence over family. It suggests that employees must choose between their job and being present for critical family moments, such as the birth of a child. This not only disregards the emotional and psychological needs of families but also places undue stress on employees who are already navigating significant life events.
  2. Contradiction with the FMLA: The FMLA explicitly provides for leave related to the birth of a child. Tanner’s request for leave was reasonable and necessary to ensure his presence at the birth of his child, and therefore should be protected under the FMLA. By ruling against him, the Court has set a dangerous precedent that companies can deny parents leave necessary to be present for the birth of a child if that leave is before the actual day of birth, effectively nullifying the FMLA’s intent.
  3. Chilling Effect on Employees: This ruling could have a chilling effect on employees who might now fear requesting leave for legitimate reasons. The threat of termination for taking family or medical leave could deter employees from exercising their rights, leading to a workforce that is overworked and unable to attend to personal and family health needs.

The Need for Legislative or Regulatory Clarity

In light of this ruling, it is evident that there is a need for greater legislative clarity and stronger protections for employees to ensure that they will not lose their employment simply for taking the steps necessary to ensure their presence at the birth of their child. Congress or the Department of Labor should consider clarifying the FMLA or its implementing regulations to ensure that its protections cannot be so easily circumvented by employers.


The Eleventh Circuit’s decision in Tristan Tanner v. Stryker is a step backward for employee rights and family values. By failing to uphold the protections intended by the FMLA, the Court has put countless employees in the impossible position of choosing between their jobs and their families. It is crucial for stronger safeguards to be put in place to protect the rights of all workers.

In the meantime, employees must remain vigilant and informed about their rights under the FMLA, and advocates must continue to fight for the fair treatment of workers in the face of unjust corporate practices.

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