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When does Family Medical Leave Act protection kick in?

Do you have to officially provide your employer with a notice that you are invoking rights under the Family Medical Leave Act to be protected by that law? A judge in one court case says no, but each situation in employment law is usually unique.

Consider this situation, which has made its way into the court system: A delivery driver says he was protected by FMLA, but his employer took actions to fire him anyway. The specifics of the story began one day when the driver was on duty. He reportedly began experiencing symptoms that made him believe he might be having a heart attack.

Obviously concerned and wanting to act quickly, the man told his coworker what was happening and left the job to seek medical attention. The company policy, however, was that the employee had to tell a supervisor he was leaving. Because he didn't follow this policy, the company took his leaving work as quitting voluntarily. Reportedly, it processed termination paperwork on the man.

The man later claimed that the company firing him was an act that interfered with his rights under FMLA. Specifically, the man claimed he had a right to take medical leave under the act. The company countered, stating that it couldn't interfere with an FMLA claim it didn't know the man planned to make.

A judge has allowed the case to go to trial. The judge disagreed with the company's claims, stating that the man didn't need to directly inform a supervisor of his illness or invoke FMLA coverage by name. The man informed a coworker he was ill, and the judge claimed the company should have investigated further.

Whether or not the trial court will side with the judge is unknown, but this case does illustrate how complex FMLA matters can be. If you feel you are being denied rights under FMLA, then speaking with an experienced lawyer can help you understand what protections you are afforded and what actions you might consider going forward.

Source: HR Morning, "FMLA violation? Worker said he was sick, walked off the job and was fired," accessed June 03, 2016

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