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Know what qualifies as a legitimate reason to take FMLA leave

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Some employees think they’re entitled to FMLA leave for every sickness and family emergency.

They’re wrong.

You should only grant leave requests based on legitimate reasons and reject clearly frivolous ones.

Also, require employees to follow your rules and provide adequate notice for legitimate leave requests.

Recent case: Rico McCoy lost his job and sued, claiming he had been denied FMLA leave on at least three occasions.

First, he said he had to take off to attend his former legal guardian’s funeral. Next, his wife went missing and he took time off to search for her. Finally, he didn’t show up for work because he claimed he had to get his mother committed to a mental hospital.

All three claims failed. The court said funeral attendance is not in and of itself an FMLA-covered event. And searching for someone who has gone missing isn’t covered at all.

Finally, while a mentally ill mother might have a serious health condition that would qualify a son to take FMLA leave to provide care, McCoy never asked for the time off. He should have either provided 30 days’ notice, or if that wasn’t possible, notified his employer as soon as he knew he needed time off. (McCoy v. State of Alabama, No. 10-13889, 11th Cir., 2011)

Final note: In an emergency, employees still have to inform their employers they need leave. How soon depends on the circumstances, but typically it should be within hours.

Online resource: Learn more about what qualifies for FMLA leave at www.dol.gov/whd/fmla.

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