FMLA Rules for leave requests: Employees have to notify you

by on January 26, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

But offer the FMLA form right away to be safe

A tricky situation with FMLA rules comes up when an employee asks for time off for an illness, but doesn’t mention FMLA leave.

What’s your responsibility? Some say you should offer the FMLA form right away, both to cover yourself and protect the employee. That’s a good idea – but you should know that the law puts a duty on employees to give clear notice.

A Wisconsin case makes the point. An employee with a spotty attendance record told her supervisor one day that she was sick and had to leave early. The supervisor didn’t ask any questions. She took three days off – after submitting a form to HR that showed she was seen at a clinic and needed the time away.

Later, she racked up a few more unauthorized absences. The company fired her over attendance. She sued, saying that under the Family and Medical Leave Act her three-day absence shouldn’t count against her record.

Absence, treatment

Wrong, the court said. An employee must notify an employer of a serious health condition to qualify for leave under FMLA rules. This means documenting the need for an absence of three days or more, and continuing treatment by a healthcare provider.

In this case, the employee did receive a prescription, which amounted to continuing treatment. But she didn’t tell the company about it until much later. That wasn’t good enough. The company wasn’t obliged to inquire about her condition when her notice was deficient.

Cite: Phillips v. Quebecor World RAI, No. 05-3744, 7th Cir., 6/12/06.

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