Best Ohio FMLA Attorney Answer: Can my boss fire me if I don’t fill out my FMLA request right? Can my job block my request to take medical leave under the FMLA? Does HR have to help me with my FMLA paperwork?
At The Spitz Law Firm, LLC, our employment lawyers regularly are involved in cleaning up the messes that employers cause by violating the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA“) in the workplace. (See What Can I Do If I Was Fired For Taking Approved FMLA Leave?; My Boss Demoted Me After I Took FMLA! – Call The Right Attorney; Do I Have A Claim For FMLA Retaliation? – Call The Right Attorney; and Can My Boss Control When I Take FMLA? – Call The Right Attorney).
The FMLA is a federal law that lets covered employees take extended time away from work, to handle certain family or medical needs. The FMLA states that an employer is required to provide eligible employees with a maximum of twelve weeks of leave if the employer is a private business engaged in, or affecting, interstate commerce, that employed fifty or more employees in twenty or more weeks in the current or prior calendar year. Furthermore, an employee who works for a covered employer is eligible for leave if he or she worked for the employer for at least twelve months, and for at least 1,250 hours over the twelve months immediately preceding the need for leave. (See Top FMLA Lawyer: Am I Eligible For Medical Leave From Work?; and Are All Employees Eligible For FMLA? – Call The Right Attorney)
Prior to taking leave, an employee must give her employer notice of the request for leave, “stat[ing] a qualifying reason for the needed leave.” An employer may require its employees to support their requests for leave with a certification issued by a health care provider. (See Is My Health Issue Serious Enough To Get FMLA Leave?). A “sufficient” medical certification must state (1) the date on which the serious health condition began, (2) the probable duration of the condition, (3) relevant medical facts, (4) a statement that the employee is unable to perform the functions of her position, (5) the dates and duration of any planned medical treatment, and (6) the expected duration of the intermittent leave.
In Hansler v. Lehigh Valley Hospital Network, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit examined whether an employee met the certification “requirements” for FMLA leave from her employer. The Court set forth the relevant facts as follows:
Hansler was hired by Lehigh Valley in 2011 to work as a technical partner. In early March 2013, Hansler began experiencing shortness of breath, nausea, and vomiting. At the time, the cause of these symptoms was unknown. On March 13, Hansler’s physician completed a medical certification form “requesting intermittent leave at a frequency of 2 times weekly starting on March 1, 2013 and lasting for a probable duration of one month- or until about April 1, 2013.” App. 44. Hansler submitted the certification to Lehigh Valley as part of a formal request for leave under the Medical Leave Act. As a result of her condition, Hansler was unable to work on March 13, 14, 23, 24, and 25.
Without seeking further information about the medical certification from either Hansler or her physician, Lehigh Valley terminated Hansler at the end of her shift on March 28. The basis for Hansler’s termination was absenteeism, including the five days she took off in March. Hansler reminded Lehigh Valley that she had requested time off under the Medical Leave Act, but Lehigh Valley informed her, for the first time, that her request had been denied.
After being terminated, Hansler sued Lehigh for violation of her FMLA rights. The trial court granted Lehigh’s motion to dismiss, agreeing with the employer that Hansler’s certification was “defective” and therefore she could not state a claim for relief under the FMLA. Hansler appealed, arguing that Lehigh should have been required to inform her earlier that her certification was “defective” and should have given her the opportunity to cure any defects to the certification. The Court of Appeals agreed.
Specifically, in holding that Lehigh failed to properly inform Hansler that her certification was defective and give her a chance to cure any defects, the Court of Appeals held:
In short, we hold today simply that when a certification submitted by an employee is “vague, ambiguous, or non-responsive” (or “incomplete,” for that matter) as to any of the categories of information required under 29 U.S.C. § 2613(b), the employer “shall advise [the] employee … what additional information is necessary to make the certification complete and sufficient” and “must provide the employee with seven calendar days … to cure any such deficiency.” The plain and mandatory language of the statute and regulations requires no less.
Based on this holding, the Court of Appeals held that Hansler did in fact state a claim for relief for FMLA interference.
Separately, the Court also overturned the trial court’s dismissal of Hansler’s FMLA retaliation claim. Again, the trial court had dismissed this claim because it determined that Hansler’s certification was defective. The Court of Appeals held that his conclusion was “flawed” because:
Hansler alleges she attempted to invoke her right to leave, she was not advised of deficiencies in her medical certification, she was not provided a cure period, and she was fired a few weeks later as a result of her leave request. Through discovery, Hansler might be able to show that Lehigh Valley had a retaliatory motive and that the stated reason for termination was pretextual.
What this tells us is that employers cannot use a technical error in the request process to avoid FMLA requirements or wrongfully fire employees that seek to use FMLA.
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 The Spitz Law Firm, LLC, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.