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Next-day notification OK when need for intermittent FMLA leave wasn’t foreseeable

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Employees are supposed to let their employers know as soon as is practicable that they need FMLA leave.

Don’t be too much of a stickler about slightly late notice. If someone didn’t foresee the need for leave (for example, because a medical condition flared up suddenly), don’t turn them down just because they waited overnight to ask for time off.

Recent case: James, a railroad dispatcher, was approved to take intermittent FMLA leave for anxiety, which he successfully did for about a year.

One day, a supervisor claimed he notified James that a train he was monitoring would need to stop and get a fresh crew. James didn’t stop the train, claiming he never got the message. Then, as several workers congregated near his desk, James became anxious.

He told the manager in charge of his office that he was upset and could not dispatch any more trains that day. She warned him there might be consequences. James went home and took medication. The manager launched an investigation.

The next morning, James called in, requesting FMLA leave. But the manager told him he had already been suspended and wasn’t eligible.

James sued, alleging failure to approve FMLA leave. The railroad claimed he didn’t give prompt notice.

But the court disagreed, reasoning that FMLA regulations allow for a same-day or next-day request for time off when leave isn’t foreseeable. (Nekich v. Wisconsin Central Limited, DC MN, 2017)

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