Before an employee can argue that her employer interfered with her, she has to have put the employer on notice that she needed leave. Simply mentioning that a relative is ill isn’t enough to trigger protection.
Recent case: Donna worked as a nursing manager. When subordinates complained that she was a micro-manager and treated them poorly in general, Donna’s supervisor suggested that she step down from herrole and take another position instead.
Around the same time, Donna mentioned that her mother was ill with cancer. She accepted the demotion.
The supervisor then sent an email to her own supervisor, stating that Donna had stepped down to work from home more so she could care for her mother. Donna went on to taketo care for her mother.
But then she sued, alleging that her supervisor had known she might need FMLA leave for her mother’s care and therefore demoted her.
The court said merely mentioning a sick family member isn’t enough to triggerprovisions or support a retaliation and interference claim. (Alfred v. Harris County, No. 16-CV-20058, 5th Cir., 2016)
Final note: Interestingly, Donna also claimed that her supervisor discovered her poor management during her own FMLA leave. But that claim was tossed out because under the FMLA, government employers are immune under the Constitution from the FMLA’s so-called self-care provisions. Government employers are not immune from charges that they interfered with family care leave.