- Blog post
Supervisor approves before FMLA forms are completed – worker sues
Bert Hughes and Tom Lacy were supervisor and subordinate, but after working together for more than three years, they were also good friends.
And Bert had been worried for some time about Tom’s dismal moods. The problem, Bert knew, was Tom’s concern about his young son, who was suffering severely from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). So Bert was pleased when Tom told him that he was arranging to take Tommy to a major medical center for intensive treatment.
“I don’t have any vacation time left,” Tom said. “I’d like to fill out some FMLA forms and take a family medical leave. The guidance counselor at the school told me all about it.”
A step ahead of the FMLA forms
“I think that’s a great idea,” Bert replied. “You know how shorthanded we are, so I’m going to have to shuffle some schedules around. In the meantime, I’ll get the FMLA forms started for the leave.”
But the next morning, Bert had to give Tom the bad news.
“The front office turned down your leave request,” he said. “ADD doesn’t qualify for a leave under the FMLA. They said we’d have to give everyone leaves for any reason if we approved yours.”
“But you already said I could go,” Tom argued.
“I’m really sorry,” Bert said. “I’d assumed ADD qualified you for it. I’m no doctor.”
“Look, I’m going whether they approve it not.”
“I can’t promise that your job will be here when you come back,” Bert replied sadly.
Tom went off as scheduled, and when he tried to return to work he was told that he’d been replaced.
Suing under the FMLA, he claimed that, even though his son’s condition had not qualified for an FMLA leave, his supervisor had approved it before turning his FMLA forms in to the HR professionals. He made all of his plans, he said, based on Bert’s initial approval of his request.
The company acknowledged that Bert had made a mistake when he took steps to plan for the leave before the FMLA forms were completed.
Bert was simply trying to resolve what could have been a serious staffing problem early, the company pointed out, and whatever he’d said didn’t change the fact that ADD does not qualify for medical leave under the FMLA.
FMLA forms first: Case dismissed
The company won when the judge agreed that there was no basis for approving Tom’s request under the law.
The FMLA is complex, and determining what is and what isn’t covered is a serious challenge, even for HR professionals.
You should never try to do it on your own. The best strategy is to submit the employee’s FMLA forms and let HR take it from there.
Perry v. Jaguar of Troy, NY.
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