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Know employee’s diagnosis? Don’t assume FMLA

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in Firing,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

If all an employee does is tell you about the diagnosis of her medical condition, that’s not enough to trigger her FMLA rights. For example, the employee can’t just state that she’s been diagnosed with depression and then, the next time she misses work, expect the time off to be automatically considered FMLA leave.

Instead, she has to provide you with enough specific information about the absence to make it clear it may be related to the earlier diagnosis.

Recent case: Two years before she stopped coming to work, Kamara told her supervisor that she had recently been diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

She didn’t, however, tell anyone why she stopped coming to work until a month after she began to take leave without permission. That’s when she filled out a form requesting leave from the employer’s leave bank because of depression and anxiety. Her employer fired her for job abandonment.

Kamara sued, alleging that she was eligible for FMLA leave. She reasoned that her supervisors should have realized she wasn’t at work because she was depressed and anxious. She contended it was up to the employer to inform her of her FMLA rights.

The court said it doesn’t work that way.

Even if an employee has previously told her employer about her diagnosis, she still has to provide enough information to put the employer on notice this absence is related to the diagnosis. The court dismissed the case. (Crawford v. City of Tampa, No. 11-11641, 11th Cir., 2012)

Final note: Why the employer waited more than a month to fire Kamara is a mystery. If you have attendance and call-in procedures in place, use them. Terminating an employee for not following call-in procedures is fine unless extenuating circumstances prevent the employee from calling in.

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