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How not to handle FMLA leave: Do what Chicago did to a seriously ill employee

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in FMLA Guidelines,HR Management,Management Training

Here’s a chance to learn from an employer’s FMLA mistakes. Don’t make the same ones yourself.

Recent case: Theresa Rodriguez worked for the city of Chicago as a deputy director, overseeing important and complicated modernization projects. Her prior experience included HR management.

Rodriguez, who has diabetes and high blood pressure, developed heart palpitations and was hospitalized. She called her boss and explained that the doctors were “running tests” and that her heart was beating erratically, leading to the “suspicion that I suffered a heart attack.” Rodriguez also called several other employees to keep them informed.

She was diagnosed with a condition that causes an abnormally rapid heartbeat, palpitations, dizziness and angina. She was ordered to stay home for about a week.

The day she returned to work, she attended a late-afternoon meeting and then felt ill. An ambulance took her back to the hospital. After another discharge and readmission, she underwent a cardiac procedure designed to stop irregular heartbeats.

Over the next weeks, Rodriguez was in and out of the office and continued to undergo medical tests and procedures designed to figure out why she was still having heart symptoms. One of her doctors eventually concluded that she was essentially worried sick.

Rodriguez was terminated the day she returned from leave. She sued, alleging interference with her right to take FMLA leave. A court ruled that her case can continue. (Rodriguez v. City of Chicago, No. 08-CV-4710, ND IL, 2011)

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