An employee of a poultry farm did not have her rights violated when her employer fired her after she did not return promptly from a trip she took to care for her ill father. The woman said that the firing was a wrongful termination because under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employers cannot retaliate against employees who take time off to care for a member of their immediate family who is sick.
However, in order to take advantage of FMLA leave, employees must go through the proper channels and formally request the leave. In this case supervisors of the woman said that they asked several times if she would need additional unpaid time off under FMLA and that she answered in the negative, perhaps seeking to preserve her statutory FMLA allotment for another time. The woman had previously requested FMLA leave during her 18 year employment at the poultry farm, so it is clear that she understood the process.
This case shows the importance of following proper procedures when a family emergency occurs and making sure to seek help to deal with complicated questions. In this situation the employee left work thinking that she would be able to return soon but was unable to do so because of the health of her father. At that point it may have been advisable to get in touch with her human resources department or seek the advice of an experienced employment law expert to find out what she could do to obtain the job-protected leave that she needed.
Source: Bloomberg BNA, “Ninth Circuit Upholds Verdict Against Worker Who Expressly Declined Use of FMLA Leave,” Jay-Anne B. Casuga, Feb. 27, 2014.