They don’t call it FMLA interference for nothing


In my day, televisions had antennas, which you had to position just right to watch one of three channels, and I’m turning into my parents.

Let’s talk about Family and Medical Leave Act interference instead.

Last night, I read an Eleventh Circuit decision about an employee who had taken FMLA leave once already for his back and hip but claimed that his employer failed to inform him that he could take additional leave for his mental health.

You know that the FMLA affords eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of leave during any 12-month period for, among other things, a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the position.

(If you don’t, WTH are you doing creeping on my employment law blog? Get!)

Employers cannot interfere with exercising or attempting to exercise any FMLA rights. For example, when an employee requests FMLA leave or when the employer knows that an employee’s leave may be for an FMLA-qualifying reason, the employer must notify the employee of the employee’s eligibility to take FMLA leave. However, the FMLA requires that the employee actually seek leave to trigger an employer’s obligation to provide the employee with information about the FMLA.

Now, let’s return to our plaintiff. He argued that three employees of the defendant interfered with his FMLA rights by not informing him that he could take leave under the FMLA for his mental health after he expressed his struggles with depression and PTSD.

But here’s the thing.

The plaintiff never requested leave or another accommodation. Therefore, the employer had no duty to notify him of his rights under the FMLA.

Could the defendant have provided the plaintiff with FMLA information? Sure. However, many employees suffer from mental health disorders and do not need leave from work to treat.

Likewise, the defendant would have had no duty to accommodate absent an affirmative request unless the need for an accommodation was obvious. Generally, an individual requesting an accommodation must let the employer know that they need an adjustment or change at work for a reason related to a medical condition. To request accommodation, an individual may use “plain English” and need not mention the ADA or use the phrase “reasonable accommodation.”


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