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When Do I Have To Notify My Job Of My FMLA Request?

by | Apr 9, 2024 | Employment Law, Family Medical Leave Claims, Federal Law Update |

The recent case of Sinico v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 2024 WL 510521 (3rd Cir. Feb 9, 2024), provides a good example of employees needing to understand how to navigate and timely make requests for medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA“).

What is FMLA interference and how do you prove it?

FMLA interference occurs when an employer unlawfully denies or inhibits an employee’s rights under the FMLA. To prove FMLA interference, the employee must establish that they were entitled to FMLA leave, that the employer knew of their request for leave, and that the employer denied or otherwise interfered with the employee’s FMLA rights. Employers cannot deny FMLA leave when an employee is entitled to it, and they must refrain from discouraging or hindering employees from exercising their FMLA rights. Additionally, FMLA interference claims can arise out of the employer failing to timely provide required information regarding the employee’s FMLA rights when the employee notifies the employer of the need for leave based on a personal or family health situation that may qualify for coverage under the FMLA.

Best FMLA Interference Lawyer Blogs on Point:

How quickly do I have to let my job know I will need FMLA?

Under FMLA regulations, when the need for leave is foreseeable, employees must provide their employers with at least 30 days’ notice before the leave begins. However, if the leave is not foreseeable due to circumstances such as a medical emergency or a change in circumstances, the employee must notify the employer “as soon as practicable.” This means as soon as the employee becomes aware of the need for leave or even the potential need for leave, they should inform their employer. Under the FMLA, notice is considered practicable so long as the employee knows “approximately” when the medical leave would start.

Best FMLA Time Off Attorney Blogs on Point:

Can you provide an FMLA notice example?

Certainly, let’s delve deeper into the facts of Sinico v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: Kelly Sinico, a dedicated juvenile probation officer employed by the Court of Common Pleas of Lebanon County, faced a challenging dilemma in balancing her professional responsibilities with her personal health journey. From January 2017 to May 2017, Sinico navigated a series of intermittent medical leaves to undergo infertility treatments. These treatments were not only physically demanding but emotionally taxing, as Sinico and her partner fervently pursued their dream of starting a family.

Amidst this delicate balance between work and personal life, Sinico’s journey reached a critical juncture. On Monday, June 5, 2017, she informed her direct supervisor, Dwight Penberth, of her upcoming embryo-transfer procedure scheduled for Saturday, June 10. Sinico meticulously detailed the medical regimen she would need to follow, including 48 hours of bed rest post-procedure and subsequent restrictions on movement. Despite her proactive approach to notifying Penberth in advance, she was met with resistance when she requested an additional two weeks off following the procedure.

Sinico’s encounter with Penberth encapsulated the challenges many employees face when asserting their rights under the FMLA. Despite acknowledging her medical needs, Penberth expressed his need for her presence at the office due to staffing constraints caused by scheduled vacations of other employees. Although Penberth suggested the possibility of submitting a doctor’s note to the human resources department, Sinico did not.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Sinico’s FMLA interference claim based on her failure to timely notify her employer of the timing of her leave:

Sinico failed to provide adequate notice because she knew “the general timing of the [embryo-transfer] procedure and her need for leave … well before” she met with Penberth on June 6, 2017, and, thus, did not provide such notice as was practicable under the circumstances. … It was Sinico’s burden to prove that she gave adequate notice of her intention to take leave. And since there is no dispute that Sinico did not provide at least 30 days’ notice, it was her burden to prove that she provided notice “as soon as practicable.” 29 C.F.R. § 825.302(a); see also 29 U.S.C. § 2612(e)(2)(b). … While there is evidence that Sinico did not know the precise date her transfer would occur, Sinico has not identified any evidence suggesting that she could not have foreseen the approximate timing of her embryo transfer earlier than June 6. Given this absence of proof, it is neither clear nor obvious that Sinico adduced evidence that she provided notice of her need to take leave as soon as was practicable.

Id. at *4.

Sinico’s case underscores the importance of understanding and asserting one’s rights under the FMLA. Despite facing adversity, Sinico courageously stood up for her rights, highlighting the need for employees to advocate for themselves in navigating the complexities of medical leave in the workplace. Unfortunately, she lacked the understanding of the FMLA process as she was going through it.

It is important to note that a better argument could have been raised by her attorneys. Since Sinico was taking time off for medical issues before, the employer should have provided her with information regarding her FMLA rights, and that the failure to do so prevented her from understanding her timeliness obligations. Instead, Sinico and her attorney, focused on only on her not getting her requested two weeks off.

Best FMLA Law Firm Blogs on Point:

How do I find the best FMLA attorneys near me?

When seeking legal representation for FMLA-related matters, it’s essential to consult experienced attorneys who focus on in employment law. As you can see, the failure to understand the intricacies of the FMLA and other employment laws can doom a claim. Because of these intricacies, you should not entrust your claims to general practice lawyers or attorney who “also do” employment law work in additional to personal injury or car accidents. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm stands out as a top choice for employees facing FMLA issues. With a track record of success in protecting employees’ rights, including FMLA claims, Spitz offers free initial consultations to discuss the specifics of your case. Moreover, Spitz operates on a no-fee guarantee basis, ensuring that clients only pay if their attorneys win. This commitment to client satisfaction and success makes Spitz the go-to option for individuals seeking focused legal representation in FMLA cases.


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