Monday, July 9, 2012

Sloppy FMLA paperwork means no FMLA leave

You don't see too many FMLA cases in the Second Circuit. This one alleges that management interfered with the plaintiff's request for time off because of a medical condition. Plaintiff loses the case under circumstances are all-too-common.

The case is Porter v. Donahoe, a summary order decided on June 5. Yes, the Family Medical Leave Act gives you up to 120 days to take care of a medical condition. No, you don't always get it for the asking. The Second Circuit (Winter, Chin and Droney) notes that "[w]hen an employee is eligible and requests leave under the FMLA, '[a]n employer may require that [the] request . . . be supported by a certification issued by the health care provider' of the family member for whom the employee is caring. A certification is 'incomplete' if 'one or more of the applicable entries have not been completed.' A certification is 'insufficient' if the entries are completed, but 'the information provided is vague, ambiguous, or non-responsive.'"

Plaintiff loses this case because his paperwork submitted in July 2006 was incomplete. It was the same paperwork that he submitted in March 2006 (which didn't get him FMLA leave at the time because he was not yet eligible) except that the March 2006 form was redated for July 2006. More importantly, "Porter failed to answer several of the questions on the form. He did not indicate, for example, the length of time he would need to assist his mother or the number of days that he would need to be absent from work. Porter does not dispute that he left some answers blank and that in response to other questions, he wrote, 'unknown at this time.'" Porter had a chance to correct the paperwork, but he did not do so. Instead, he tried to revise the form with "vague and unhelpful" responses to the questions. Other questions remained unanswered.

Lessons to be learned from this case are obvious: fill out the paperwork properly and read the FMLA form carefully to make sure you are doing what the employer requires. It is not enough to request FMLA leave. You have to submit the right paperwork.

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