Hysterics may be sign FMLA leave is required

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Here’s something to consider before you reflexively terminate an employee who walks out. If she’s so distraught that she’s shaking, crying and hysterical, she may need FMLA leave.

Instead of terminating her, let her know she should request FMLA leave.

Recent case: Ruby worked as a nurse in a hospital’s rehabilitation unit. When she was informed she would be reassigned to another unit, she panicked, telling her supervisor that she wasn’t trained for the assignment.

He told her she had two choices: either accept the assignment imme­diately or face discharge as well as charges before the nursing board that she had abandoned patients. That would put her license at risk.

Shaking, Ruby left and went straight to HR, where her panic bloomed into hysteria. HR suggested she go home and seek medical help. She saw her doctor within hours, and he diagnosed panic disorder and anxiety. After prescribing therapy and medication, he wrote a note recommending that Ruby take the rest of the week off.

The next day, she brought the note to HR and picked up an FMLA leave form. That afternoon, she was told she had been fired the day before for leaving her station. Her supervisor indeed followed through on his threat to report her walk-out to the licensing board.

Ruby sued, alleging interference with her right to FMLA leave.

The hospital won the first round when a judge ruled Ruby hadn’t provided adequate notice that she needed to leave work.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated her lawsuit. It reasoned that her sudden panic and obvious distress should have put her supervisor and HR on immediate notice that she might have a serious health condition and needed FMLA leave. (Clickscale v. St. Therese of New Hope, No. 12-1223, 8th Cir., 2012)

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