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Firing for Failure to Submit FMLA Forms

October 14, 2008
Related Topics: Termination, Featured Article, Legal
After thyroid surgery, Janet Ridings, an employee of Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee, Illinois, grew tired in the afternoon and regularly left work early. When Riverside told Ridings that she must begin working eight hours at the site or submit medical documentation for Family and Medical Leave Act intermittent leave, Ridings submitted a doctor’s note but did not complete the required FMLA forms. Despite three written warnings from Riverside that the doctor’s note was insufficient, Ridings failed to submit any other information or return to working eight hours per day. She was fired.

Ridings sued Riverside, arguing that it had interfered with her FMLA rights and had unlawfully retaliated against her for taking FMLA leave.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit upheld the district court’s dismissal of the lawsuit in favor of Riverside, holding that Riverside was within its rights to demand that Ridings either work eight-hour days or formally request FMLA leave. In doing so, the court found that Ridings did invoke her FMLA rights, but that Riverside’s requests were valid and gave her a sufficient amount of time to respond to those requests.

According to the court, "Riverside was permitted by the FMLA to require Ridings to substantiate her continued need for a reduced schedule, and it terminated her in accordance with the FMLA and its employment policies for failing to comply with the employer’s internal policies." Ridings v. Riverside Med. Ctr., 7th Cir., No. 06-4328 (8/11/08).

Impact: Under the FMLA, an employer is entitled to require an employee to submit medical certification and other verification of the employee’s need or continued need for FMLA leave, including intermittent leave.

Workforce Management, September 6, 2008, p. 13 -- Subscribe Now!

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