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Playing the FMLA Police is Bad Business

Published November 6, 2017 by Employment and Consumer Law Group
Playing the FMLA Police is Bad Business

Communicating concern for the well-being of an employee is great, but many employers take it too far. Sure, you may want to know when an employee will return to work from FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), but don’t overstep your boundaries.

Consider, the Eleventh Circuit Court case Diamond vs. Hospice. Ms. Diamond was a clinical social worker who had to take several family medical days due to her mother’s health. Shortly thereafter, Hospice reached out to Ms. Diamond to inform her that her absences were negatively affecting her job performance that the quality of care that Hospice can provide. They also requested ‘proof of need’ documents, in the form of gas and travel receipts.

The following month, Hospice fired Ms. Diamond.

The 11th Circuit Court ruled that Ms. Diamond was on protected leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. Family Medical Leave may be certified by a letter from a healthcare provider; however, further proof is unnecessary. Food and travel receipts are in no way related to the health of her mother.

Additionally, Hospice lacked a leave-notification policy and procedures for employees who needed to take family medical leave. When asked for the HR documentation outlining their policies, Ms. Diamond was told to review the FMLA regulations. This implies that Hospice may have been intentionally making it more difficult for Ms. Diamond to request FMLA time, to discourage her from taking leave.

Ms. Diamond found herself with a case against her employer for FMLA interference, and her subsequent firing points to retaliatory motive.

If you are an employer, you should do the following:

  • Have clearly articulated FMLA and leave policies in place for both foreseen and unforeseen circumstances.
  • Request FMLA certification from the employee, but be careful not to go overboard with your documentation requests.
  • If you suspect FMLA abuse, or if you suspect your employer has interfered with your FMLA rights, I can help you.

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