Good news on thefront: A court has ruled that employees have to do more than merely mention that a family member is sick to trigger an employer’s FMLA obligations.
Recent case: Donna worked for Pulte Homes as a sales associate. Her supervisor received several customer complaints about her attitude. When her sales also fell, the supervisor put Donna on a performance improvement plan. When nothing improved, she was terminated.
That’s when she sued, alleging that she had really been fired because her parents needed her help and she might need to take.
But Pulte pointed out two crucial issues. First, its employee handbook clearly explained employees’ FMLA leave rights and what they had to do to receiveand leave approval. Donna admitted she knew about the process but never used it.
Second, Pulte argued that not only hadn’t Donna called HR as the handbook instructed, but she never let her supervisor know she might need FMLA leave. In fact, all he knew was that Donna once told him that her parents might need help at some point and that Donna sometimes took her mother and father to medical appointments on her days off.
The court agreed that Donna never let her employer know she might need FMLA leave. Therefore, she couldn’t have been terminated for requesting FMLA leave. The case was dismissed. (Nicholson v. Pulte Homes, No. 11-2238, 7th Cir., 2012)