When employees request leave, especially for unforeseen circumstances, they don't need to assert their FMLA rights explicitly by saying, "I need FMLA leave." In fact, they don't need to mention FMLA at all.
While employees must give a general explanation of their reason for leave, it's your responsibility to decide whether a leave request qualifies as job-protected FMLA leave.
If employees provide enough information for you to draw a preliminary conclusion that they may qualify for FMLA leave, consider yourself on notice. That's why it's important to teach supervisors how to listen for leave requests that would fall under the FMLA umbrella. Even general leave requests for a "family emergency" could trigger FMLA protections.
In short, as long as you're alerted about the need for the leave, the burden falls on you to draw a preliminary conclusion about whether the leave is covered under the FMLA.
Are you prepared? The FMLA Compliance Guide explains who's covered, what's covered and for how long. Get the FMLA Guide now...
Case in Point: When an employee told his boss that he needed leave to deal with a "family emergency," the employer refused to grant him the time off. He sued under FMLA, and the court sided with him, saying his designation of "family emergency" was enough to put the company on notice of his need for FMLA leave.
FMLA regulations require employees to give you only a "short and plain statement" of their need for leave. If you determine later that the employee (or family member) didn't have a serious health condition that would qualify for leave, you can withdraw your FMLA leave approval at that time, the court said. (Christenson v. The Boeing Co, No. 150 LC 34924, D.Ore.)
The FMLA Compliance Guide covers:
- The 'new' FMLA requirements that took effect last year
- Notification deadlines and FMLA forms
- How to determine coverage and eligibility
- Answers to critical questions about employee coverage
- Managing military family leave
- and much more...