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FMLA: employers can't take it or leave it

As our regular readers know, we have several times discussed in our blog that many Maryland workers are entitled to take leave for work to care for a family member with a serious medical condition or because the employee has a serious health condition making them unable to perform their job.

The employees are protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act that enables them to take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period. Unsurprisingly, disputes between employees and employers over FMLA leaves are not uncommon.

We recently read a decision in a court case involving a casino not unlike the one northeast of us in Greenbelt. The casino in question is in Michigan, however, where a long-time employee was granted FMLA leaves because of a degenerative spinal disorder that sometimes prevented her from standing for long periods. She often spent several workdays in a row on her feet, which aggravated her medical condition.

She apparently took without problems seven leaves in her five years of work prior to the disputed leaves which began in 2011.

The casino she worked for had an outside vendor to handle its HR operations. The woman informed the HR vendor that she wished to be contacted by postal mail about FMLA matters. When the casino sought to have the woman's medical condition re-certified by a health care professional, the HR vendor contacted the woman by email. The email apparently conveyed to the woman that she needed to have a doctor write a letter to her employer, verifying that she had the spinal disorder.

Because the woman never read the emails (remember, she had asked to be notified by postal mail), a U.S. District Court has denied summary judgment for her former employer.

She was fired after she failed to provide the recertification documentation and missed more work due to her spinal condition.

Now a court will hear her claim that she was wrongfully terminated after her employer failed to communicate to her a need for recertification.

The case illustrates the need for an experienced employment law attorney who understands not only the protections of FMLA, but who can also negotiate with employers and go to trial when needed.

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Thatcher Law Firm
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