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Communication proves critical in FMLA matters

When individuals need leave from their job, there are invariably a multiplicity of dynamics play. Those include the needs of the employee, the needs of the employer, and governing law including the Family and Medical Leave Act, commonly referred to as the FMLA. In order to make sure that the interaction of those dynamics is successful, there has to be excellent communication between all involved parties.

A recent example involved a woman who worked at a residential care facility. She contacted her manager to ask for time off in order to spend time with her daughter, who needed treatment for thyroid cancer. When the woman submitted an FMLA form seeking the leave, she left a question about how long she expected the covered leave to go blank.

This made the date of her return uncertain. There was no written request by the company for a return date, and whether or not they made verbal requests is in dispute. However, the company believed that she would not return within the the 12-week leave period.

When she did, she found out that she had been replaced. She went to court because of that, and secured a favorable ruling. The court decided that the projected duration of the daughter's care did not determinatively indicate that the employee would be gone past the end of the 12-week leave period.

In this case, a misinterpretation may have been central. If there had been better communication between the employee and the employer, that misinterpretation might have been clarified and precluded the need for legal proceedings. Individuals currently faced with FMLA leave issues can make sure that all important elements of their case are clearly communicated with the assistance of an experienced attorney.

Source:  BenefitsPro.com, "The importance of communication during FMLA leave" Eric B. Meyer, Jul. 09, 2014

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