Failure to Provide FMLA Notice Constitutes Interference with Rights
An employer that failed to advise an employee of his rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act could be liable for FMLA interference, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.
Under the FMLA regulations, once an employer acquires knowledge that an employee’s leave may be for an FMLA-qualifying reason, the employer must notify the employee of his eligibility to take FMLA leave, as well as the employee’s rights and responsibilities under FMLA. These notices must be provided within 5 business days.
In Reeder v. County of Wayne, the employee provided his employer with three doctor’s notes that restricted his ability to work more than 8 hours a day for medical reasons, which meant that he was unable to work mandatory overtime. The employer failed to provide him with the required FMLA notices, and he was subsequently terminated for failing to work overtime.
The Court found that, contrary to the employer’s argument, the employee was not required formally to request FMLA leave to cover the missed overtime. Rather, he had given the employer sufficient information such that the employer should have recognized that his inability to work overtime could be FMLA-qualifying – or if it did not have sufficient information to make that determination, then, under the regulations, it had the obligation to request additional information. The employer’s failure to provide the required notices, therefore, interfered with the employee’s right under FMLA to take protected leave. This case emphasizes the need for employers to recognize when the FMLA might be implicated in an employee’s inability to work – even if it is on a part-time or overtime basis – and to ensure that the required notices are timely provided.