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Employee reporting medical problems that could warrant FMLA? Get more details

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

When an employee simply calls in sick or leaves work early to visit a doctor, that act can count as “notice” of a serious health condition under the FMLA.

While just calling in sick without further explanation may not trigger an employer’s obligation to see whether the employee needs FMLA leave, the more details she provides, the better the chances that the information constituted FMLA notice, which would require the employer to follow up.

Recent case:
Misty Terhorst reported to work one morning and left to meet with a customer before a scheduled meeting with her supervisor.

Instead, she called him to tell him she was going to the ER with a headache, dizziness and high blood pressure. She called again the next morning and said she needed more treatment and a few days off.

When she was later terminated, she sued, alleging FMLA violations. The court said she had presented enough evidence that her time off might have been for an FMLA reason.

She provided clues that she had a serious condition by telling the company she went to the ER with several complaints that should have prompted the company to get more information from her. (Terhorst v. Idearch Media Sales West, No. 8:07-cv-1931, MD FL, 2008)

Final note:
Don’t try to play games with FMLA leave. Remember, it’s an entitlement, not a privilege. If you suspect the employee needs FMLA leave, follow the process to get certification from the health care provider rather than denying the leave outright.

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