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Court cases support employer notification rules for FMLA leave

A pair of recent court decisions have reinforced the need for workers to comply with notification requirements set by employers when they seek time off through the Family and Medical Leave Act. Employees in Pennsylvania that do not observe their employers' rules about requesting time off could be legally exposed to disciplinary action.

The court sided with General Motors when an electrician sued the automaker for FMLA violations. GM required employees to call two separate numbers to formally request time off. The electrician had been taking leave as needed for iron-deficiency anemia but did not consistently observe the rule. The company suspended him without pay, and the court agreed that this was a legal action.

In another FLMA-related case of a nurse suing a hospital, a court also ruled in favor of the employer. She had suffered from frequent migraine headaches and repeatedly took days off when necessary. When she took medication at work and fell asleep without informing her employer of the need to take time off, she violated work rules, and a court upheld her employer's decision to fire her.

Although employers may impose procedures for requesting time off, companies sometimes treat workers unfairly and violate the Family and Medical Leave Act. A person who suspects that an employer discourages the proper use of this right could ask an attorney for clarification. A lawyer could review the circumstances of the request to see if evidence of discrimination might be present. For example, discrimination might occur if an employee asks for paternity leave or has to care for a disabled child. Denial of valid leave requests or retaliation for taking leave could be grounds for a lawsuit. An attorney could document evidence and file the court papers. Damages sought could include lost pay and benefits or reinstatement to a position.

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