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Request for leave to care for sick relative doesn’t have to be in writing

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Minnesota employees who quit their jobs to care for a sick relative can sometimes collect unemployment compensation benefits despite having voluntarily quit if they follow certain rules before resigning.

Employers need to be aware that if an employee comes forward and requests a work-related accommodation, refusing to make that accommodation may mean the employee becomes eligible for unemployment.

The request does not have to be in writing or be presented in any particular form.

For example, if the employee discussed the need for leave to care for a sick relative with her supervisor, that is enough to trigger the accommodation process. Turning down the request because it isn’t in writing won’t work.

Recent case: Loria had just a few hours of FMLA leave available when she asked her supervisor for more time off to care for a sick relative. She initially requested between six months and 12 months off. Her supervisor told her that just wasn’t possible, but that she could fill out some forms and ask. Instead, she quit.

She applied for unemployment compensation benefits, arguing she had informed her employer of her need for the accommodation and had been turned down.

The employer argued that Loria should have filled out the forms. That argument didn’t go far. The court said the law doesn’t require the request to be in writing. Loria was eligible for unemployment benefits. (Quade v. City of Minneapolis, No. A16-0740, Court of Appeals of Minnesota, 2016)

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