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You don’t have to chase down FMLA certification

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Employers aren’t required to go out of their way to encourage employees to have a doctor certify a serious health condition that qualifies for FMLA leave.

Recent case: Michael Kobus worked as a college maintenance manager. Due to a series of misfortunes, Kobus became depressed and needed to take an antidepressant. He told his boss he was stressed and anxious, but didn’t tell him about his diagnosis and medication.

Later, when the anxiety grew, Kobus asked his boss for some sort of leave. Kobus then got a form for requesting FMLA leave. His supervisor told Kobus he could take FMLA leave if he had a serious health condition. Kobus put the form in his drawer and decided he could handle the stress on his own for the time being.

But Kobus still missed many shifts and was written up for absenteeism. When he was absent again and had no more sick or vacation time available, he called his supervisor and asked about taking “mental health leave” because his family problems were causing “these knots in my neck and the pains in my head.”

Again, the supervisor offered a brief explanation of FMLA leave. Kobus asked how to apply and learned he needed a doctor to certify that he needed the time off. Kobus didn’t apply because he didn’t have a doctor. Instead, he resigned because no other leave was available.

He sued, alleging his employer should have done more to make sure he got the FMLA leave he was entitled to.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Kobus’ argument. It said that the employer had provided the information and didn’t have to go any further. (Kobus v. The College of St. Scholastica, No. 09-1583, 8th Cir., 2010)

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