Merely reporting an injury doesn’t trigger FMLA notice

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

The FMLA protects employees from termination for taking leave. But that provision doesn’t kick in until the employee notifies you about the serious health condition (or relative’s health condition) that triggers the leave. It’s an employee’s obligation to provide that notice, even in a sudden or emergency situation.

But which magic words trigger that awareness? In the 11th Circuit, it takes more than an employee merely reporting he had an accident. He must let you know the situation is serious, not just a matter of bumps from a fall.

Best bet: Make sure your FMLA policy clearly informs employees about their notice obligations. That can help you avoid misunderstandings and costly litigation.

Recent case: While working out, Peter Nicolatos fell off a treadmill and hit his head. Nicolatos, who had a sales report due the next day, called his boss and told him about the accident.

The next day, Nicolatos’ boss called and Nicolatos told him he was undergoing treatment but didn’t indicate that it might be serious, or that he was at the emergency room. Later that day, his boss fired him.

As it turned out, Nicolatos was seriously injured and would be laid up for a while. He sued, alleging denial of FMLA leave. But the court rejected his claim, saying nothing in their conversations had put the employer on notice that his injury might be serious enough to require leave. (Nicolatos v. Sprint/United Management Co., No. 1-CV-1722, ND GA, 2006)

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