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Serial FMLA requests? Respond to every one

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Some employees seem to believe that every minor illness is grounds for FMLA leave. Often, when they’re trying to avoid discipline and don’t have any other leave available, they’ll try to invoke the FMLA. They then submit a barrage of FMLA requests every time they have a sniffle or headache and expect time off without penalty.

It can be a hassle to respond to each request with more than a blanket denial. But respond you must. Include a specific reason why you are turning down the request.

If the employee didn’t include enough medical justification, request more. If it’s clear the absence is for an illness not covered by the FMLA, say so. That way, he can’t later argue that he was unfairly denied leave when you include the absence in the disciplinary process.

Recent case: Simon, who worked for the U.S. Postal Service, had a spotty attendance record and was disciplined several times for excessive absenteeism. He was eventually discharged for pushing a mail cart into his supervisor. He had an ongoing conflict with her and the incident was the final straw.

Simon sued, alleging that he had submitted numerous FMLA leave requests for what he claimed was a disability. He said his requests had been wrongly denied and because he was disabled.

The court didn’t buy his argument after reviewing his requests and the employer’s response. Each time his FMLA request was turned down, he was told that it was because he failed to include enough information to allow the post office to decide whether he had a serious health condition. He never provided the additional information. Therefore, he couldn’t use the denials as proof of discrimination. (Sanchez v. Donahoe, 4:12-CV-01328, SD TX, 2014)

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