Takingdoesn’t protect employees from being fired for other reasons.
Recent case: John called to tell his employer he had to care for his daughter, who has several serious health conditions like asthma and food allergies. John claimed the HR manager told him not to return until he got a medical certification from his daughter’s doctor. The HR manager later denied saying that.
After John didn’t return to work, but before the company received hiswithin the 15-day deadline, the company fired him. The certification said John could return to work within one day of his daughter’s illness ending. Thus, John was off many more days than those covered by the certification.
He sued, alleging he had followed directions but was fired anyway for taking FMLA leave.
A jury considered both sides and concluded that the company would have fired John for not showing up whether he was entitled to FMLA leave or not. The jury apparently believed the HR manager over John, and decided missing work for almost two weeks was an independent reason to fire him. (Adams v. Auto Rail Logistics, No. 11-1357, 6th Cir., 2012)
Final note: Track it every time someone contacts HR about FMLA leave. Take notes about those conversations.
Plus, set clear policies on what employees should do when requesting FMLA leave, including instructions to immediately return when the need is over even if a certification is pending.
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- Require use of vacation time if you know FMLA doesn't apply
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- Stay on top of FMLA recertifications—Track when employees receive your requests