FMLA guidelines are not a catch all protection
Marlo Throckmorton dug her nails into her palms to avoid saying what she was thinking, which was that Rob Osgood was a lazy shirker playing by using FMLA guidelines. Instead, she said, “Your absence last Friday was unauthorized, and it was your second one.”
Rob looked at his supervisor with a mix of irritation and fear. “You drove me to it,” he said.
“I was out in the plant interviewing workers for that project, and you implied I was sitting around my cubicle doing nothing. I saw so red, I don’t know what I would’ve done if I hadn’t gone home right away.”
“Cut the baloney,” Marlo said. “Bart McGuire told me you were in your cubicle all afternoon. And you may have stormed out, but you weren’t too out of control to remember to drop off your two-way radio in my office.”
Grounds for Termination, but did it comply with FMLA guidelines
“Anyway,” Marlo said, “you left four hours before your shift ended, and a second unauthorized absence is grounds for suspension. You know the rules. You’re suspended for a week, no pay.”
“I left voice mails saying why I was out both Monday and Tuesday!” Rob protested. “And I sent an FMLA form from my doctor saying I needed to be off for five days.”
“Yeah, but the form said nothing about your condition, and you didn’t get back to us when we sent you a registered letter asking for more detail,” Marlo persisted. “Those voice mails? They don’t cover your early departure. Plus, you had no sick leave left. So the five days you missed are unauthorized, too.”
“What about my FMLA leave?” Rob protested. “I know my rights. I get as much as 12 weeks off if I need it. And I need it now. I’m completely stressed out with the way you ride me.”
“We don’t have to approve FMLA leave if you don’t have a serious medical condition under FMLA guidelines,” Marlo said. “You’ve done nothing to show that you do, and you blew off our efforts to find out why your doctor took you off duty. So FMLA won’t help you.”
“You’re going to be sorry for this!” Rob shouted.
He sued for interference under FMLA guidelines. Did the company win?
Yes, the company won. The court threw Rob’s lawsuit out.
One problem with his case was that he didn’t tell Marlo he needed leave on the day he left early. Rob said he was too worked up, but the court noted that he had enough composure to gather his belongings, leave his radio and talk to other employees before departing.
Also, the company didn’t discipline Rob until it had asked what his condition was and he had failed to respond. It was his responsibility to give the company a medical reason for the leave he wanted.
Remember: Employees can’t just walk out in a huff, against their supervisor’s wishes, and expect protection under FMLA guidelines.
Cite:Woods v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., Nos. 04-1065/04-1066, 8th Cir., 6/7/05.
Subscribe to HR Info Center
Get the latest research on workplace learning with weekly posts delivered to your inbox