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Make sure FMLA paperwork arrives promptly

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Good HR practices rely on complete and accurate documentation. That’s especially true when it comes to FMLA administration, where noncompliance with notice requirements spurs plenty of lawsuits.  

Recent case: Vince’s employer had a no-fault attendance policy. Employees who accumulated enough unexcused absences over the course of a year were terminated. When Vince developed asthma, he began missing a substantial amount of work.

At one point, his condition grew so serious that he was hospitalized. When he was released, his doctors said he would need intermittent leave on occasions when his condition flared up. Vince told his employer and requested FMLA leave forms.

The employer said it sent Vince some information on absences—but not the FMLA. However, the mailing didn’t include Vince’s ZIP code, nor was it sent certified mail. Vince denied ever receiving it and asked again for the forms.

Meanwhile, his absences mounted. He didn’t receive the forms in the mail until the very day he was scheduled to attend a meeting about his mounting absences. By then it was too late—the employer had already determined that Vince had missed too much work. It fired him.

Vince sued, alleging that when he requested FMLA forms, his employer was obligated to provide them promptly.

The court agreed and said his case could go to trial. Vince will try to convince a jury that he didn’t get the forms and, if he had, he would have filled them out. The employer will try to prove it did send the forms—something that may be difficult to do. (Gunter v. Cambridge-Lee, No. 14-2925, ED PA, 2016)

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