History of injuries didn’t excuse lack of FMLA notice

by on January 17, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Cafe

A month ago, your worker notified you that he’d strained his back. Now he has a new, unrelated back injury. Does he have to give you FMLA notice this time around? Or does his previous injury count as notice to you, the employer?

He has to give you notice. That’s what the courts ruled recently in a case in Missouri.

Repeated back strains
The employee, who serviced heavy trucks, strained his lower back twice in three months but didn’t miss any work. He reported both injuries.

A month after the second injury, the employee hurt his back again – this time the upper back. He missed four days of work this time. Calling in sick each day, he didn’t mention his new injury. He was fired when he returned, and he sued under the FMLA for wrongful termination.

In court, the worker argued that given the circumstances of his recent back injuries, the company should have known of his need for FMLA leave.

Not true, the courts said. There was no medical connection between the two sets of injuries, and the company didn’t have to guess. Since he didn’t give FMLA notice, the company was within its rights to fire him.

Takeaway: Remind employees that before they can take FMLA leave, they must give you enough information to convey that they have a serious health condition.

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