Top Ohio FMLA Attorney: My boss promised me I could take FMLA leave and fired me after my request because our office isn’t covered, can I sue my employer for wrongful termination? Can my manager fire me for taking FMLA leave because our office does not have enough employees even if our handbook says we are eligible?
As our employment law attorneys have previously discussed here and here, the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) allows an eligible employee up to twelve weeks or 1,250 hours of leave to care for the serious medical condition of a spouse, child, parent, our their own serious medical condition. (Also read: Am I Eligible For FMLA?) Employers with more than fifty employees within a seventy five mile radius are required to offer FMLA leave to eligible workers. Many employers, in an effort to make sure they are in compliance with FMLA, provide employee handbooks with information regarding the employee’s FMLA rights and responsibilities. They make grand sweeping statements about making every effort to provide FMLA leave and how they can apply without fear of retaliation or termination. What happens if an employee works for a large employer, but works from an office that does not meet the FMLA requirements? To add a better twist, what happens when the same employee receives a handbook used in covered offices with an unequivocal promise to provide FMLA leave for employees to all eligible employees and relies on the handbook to request FMLA leave from work?
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (Ohio) just decided a case of whether or not an employee, who relied upon a provision of the handbook providing FMLA leave could hold an employer liable for violating the FMLA. In Tilley v. Kalamazzo County Road Commission, Tilley had received an employee handbook that unequivocally stated he could take FMLA leave so long as he had worked for the hours required by the act. Additionally, as documented by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals:
Commission sent Tilley FMLA paperwork related to his absence from work. In her cover letter, Benison told Tilley that he was “eligible for FMLA leave” and that it was “important that we  utilize Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave” during his time off. Benison also provided Tilley a “Notice of Eligibility and Rights & Responsibilities” form (the “Eligibility Notice”) on which Benison checked the box “inform[ing]” Tilley that he was “eligible for FMLA leave.” The Eligibility Notice contained another box to be checked when an employee was “not eligible for FMLA leave” because he “[did] not work and/or report to a site with 50 or more employees within 75-miles,” but Benison left this alternate box blank. Finally, the Eligibility Notice informed Tilley that he needed to obtain and submit an appropriate medical certification from his physician to support his request for FMLA leave.
Tilley submitted his request for FMLA and was subsequently denied by the employer, stating his office was not covered by the act due to the amount of employees. Tilley was fired three days after his request and ultimately filed a lawsuit against the Road Commission for FMLA retaliation and interference.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decided in Tilley’s favor and held the employer’s handbook statement was “an unambiguous and unqualified statement that Road Commission employees, like Tilley, who have logged 1,250 hours in the year before seeking FMLA leave are covered by the FMLA and are eligible to apply for FMLA benefits.” They also held that the Road Commission could have done something to put the employee on notice that his office was not covered by FMLA. Finally, the Court hit the nail on the head when the rationale boiled down to one sentence, “Simply put, a reasonable person in Tilley’s position could fairly have believed that he was protected by the FMLA.” In essence, if your employer makes a straightforward, unequivocal promise that you will receive FMLA leave if you work the hours required and submit medical documentation, they can be held legally liable if they do not fulfill their end of the bargain.
If you feel that you are being denied leave rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or are being retaliated against for taking medical leave, you should call the right attorney as quickly as possible to schedule a free and confidential consultation. The phone number to contact an Ohio attorney for FMLA help is 866-797-6040. While you focus on your family medical needs, let our FLMA attorneys focus on your medical leave rights.
This employment law website is an advertisement. The materials available at the top of this medical leave page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “how do I get medical leave under the FMLA?”, “what should I do when my job won’t give me medical leave?”, “can my boss deny me medical leave?”, “what should I do if I was fired in retaliation for taking FMLA leave?”, or “is my employer allowed to…?”, your best option is to contact an Ohio medical leave attorney to obtain advice with respect to FMLA questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.