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Legal Brief Employer Responsibilities Under FMLA

Employers, via their policies and procedures, must demonstrate their willingness to help rather than hinder employees’ use of FMLA rights.

January 20, 2006
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Related Topics: Employee Leave
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Peter Kauffman, having received two recent "strikes" for disciplinary infractions by January 2002 in his employment with FedEx, would be subject to termination on his third infraction. In January, Kauffman called in sick for three days, and on his return to work was given an FMLA certification form to be completed within 15 days. Kauffman’s physician wrote "bronchitis" on the form but did not indicate the probable duration of the condition. When asked about the form by his supervisor, Kauffman said that he had "turned it in," and offered to get another copy. In response, the supervisor fired Kauffman after concluding that his absences were not excused.

    When Kauffman appealed his termination through the company’s internal policies, the company advised him for the first time that the doctor’s certification was incomplete. When Kauffman attempted to give FedEx a revised form from his doctor, he was refused. Kauffman sued under the FMLA.

    A district court dismissed the lawsuit, relying on the deficiencies in the doctor’s certification. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit determined that FedEx had interfered with Kauffman’s substantive rights under the FMLA. "The doctor’s certification provides enough information to satisfy the (FMLA)." Moreover, "FedEx would have been required to, but did not, notify Kauffman and give him time to cure the deficiency." Kauffman v. Fed. Express Corp., 7th Cir., No. 04-2433 (10/18/05).

    Impact: It is important that employers, via their policies and procedures, demonstrate their willingness to help rather than hinder their employees’ use of FMLA rights.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

Workforce Management, January 16, 2006, p. 13 -- Subscribe Now!

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