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You don’t have to accept after-the-fact proof of FMLA leave

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires workers to give their employers notice of their need for leave. But you have the right to deny leave when the provided information fails to support the employee's stated need for the leave.

As the following case proves, if you fire an employee for taking unqualified FMLA leave, you won't be forced to rehire the employee if he or she can later prove that the leave truly did qualify for the FMLA. Employees need to show their cards upfront or not at all.

Recent case: Steve Aubuchon's wife was pregnant and past her due date, so he wanted to stay with her until she had the baby. He told his employer that he'd be taking FMLA leave.

When he submitted his FMLA paperwork, he didn't indicate that his wife had a "serious health condition" or pregnancy-related complication prior to giving birth, as required by the FMLA for pre-birth leave. So the organization denied the leave and fired him for absenteeism.

Soon after that, Aubuchon submitted a note from his wife's doctor stating that his wife, in fact, did have pregnancy-related complications. The organization refused to reverse the termination, so Aubuchon sued under the FMLA.

A federal appeals court tossed out his case. Reason: Aubuchon failed to put his employer on notice that his wife had complications covered by the FMLA.

The court said he couldn't "fix" that after the fact because "employees should not be encouraged to mousetrap their employers by requesting FMLA leave on patently insufficient grounds and then, after the leave is denied, obtaining a doctor's note that indicates sufficient grounds existed." (Aubuchon v. Knauf Fiberglass, No. 03-1382, 7th Cir., 2004)

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