Request for FMLA Leave Must Actually Qualify for Such Leave to Be Protected
An employee requesting leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act is only entitled to the protections of the Act if she actually has a qualifying serious health condition, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
In Martin v. Financial Asset Mgmt. Systs., Inc., after a contentious meeting in which the employee was berated by her manager, she complained to human resources about her manager and stated that she needed to take a few days off because of her health. She met with a licensed professional counselor who stated that the employee suffered from an adjustment disorder with depressed mood and anxiety, but that she was functioning within normal range. The counselor did not find that the employee was unable to work. In the meantime, the manager decided to terminate the employee for failing to respond to his calls. The employee then sued, in part, for interference and retaliation under the FMLA.
The 11th Circuit rejected the argument that the FMLA protects a request for FMLA leave regardless of whether the employee is eligible for the leave. Rather, the employee must show that she has a serious health condition, as determined by a health care provider, that qualifies her for the leave – and in this case, the employee could not do so. The licensed professional counselor was not a “health care provider” within the meaning of the FMLA. Accordingly, the employee was not eligible for FMLA leave, and was not entitled to the protections of the FMLA.