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Remind bosses: Handle FMLA requests stoically, even if they’ll cause scheduling problems

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

An employee’s request to take FMLA leave can be frustrating for supervisors who have to manage schedules and projects. But if they voice those concerns in a way that seems angry or annoyed, they may be creating the perfect storm for an FMLA interference lawsuit. Remind them to accept FMLA requests professionally, without emotion.

Recent case: Velma Villalon worked as an administrative assistant for a Del Mar College vice president. Under a previous boss, she had received rave reviews. She didn’t get along as well with her new boss. In fact, Villalon got so upset over the conflict that she took a short FMLA leave for stress.

When she returned, she received a negative performance review. She then told her supervisor she would soon need to take several more weeks of FMLA leave. Shortly, the VP fired her, citing poor performance. Villalon sued.

In court, Villalon described her boss’s reaction to her FMLA leave announcement. She said the VP asked—in a way that clearly showed she was annoyed—“What am I going to do while you are gone?”

The court said Villalon was entitled to a trial because a supervisor’s negative reaction to FMLA requests can be used as evidence that the real reason for termination or other negative employment decisions was FMLA usage. (Villalon v. Del Mar College, No. C-09-252, SD TX, 2010)

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