Calling In Not Sufficient FMLA Notice

October 25, 2005 ( - The US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a Visteon employee who called in to his plant's security office on two different occasions to report his absence from work did not provide proper notice of his need for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Terry Walton injured his knee while doing yard work at home.   The following day he told his supervisor he had injured his knee and was going to the plant’s medical facility to have it evaluated.   The nurse at the company’s medical office diagnosed a sprained knee, treated it and sent Walton back to work.   According to the court  opinion , Walton neither requested leave nor requested leave forms from the medical department.

Around noon that same day Walton told his supervisor that he had scheduled a doctor’s appointment for that afternoon.   The supervisor approved his time off for the appointment.   Walton didn’t return to work that day nor did he call his employer to report his status.   The doctor had written him out of work until he could see an orthopedic specialist four days later.

According to the court, Walton called the plant’s security office the next day to say he was written out of work until he saw the specialist.   He told them he was taking sick days and that is the reason listed on the Hourly Personnel Absence Call-In Log Sheet kept by the security office.   After the specialist determined he had torn a ligament and wrote him out of work for a month, he again called the plant’s security office, and they again listed the reason as sick.

Visteon sent Walton a letter two days after the second time he called in saying he had five business days to inform them of his reason for being absent or his employment would be terminated.   The letter said if he presented satisfactory evidence of illness or injury, he would be granted leave to cover the absence.

Though the post office records show that he was notified on April 30, 2001 that he had a certified letter to be picked up, Walton said he didn’t get the letter until May 8.   After Walton was terminated, he submitted the notes from doctors and leave request forms to Visteon through his United Auto Workers union representative.

Visteon policy clearly states that to properly request FMLA leave an employee must notify the labor relations department within two days of the initial absence and then complete and turn in the required FMLA forms to the company’s medical department.   In addition, the court noted that Walton knew the proper procedures since he had requested leave on previous occasions.  

The district court had granted summary judgment in favor of Visteon finding that, since Walton had not contacted his supervisor or the labor relations department, nor had submitted any medical forms, he did not provide proper notice of his need for FMLA leave.   They noted in the finding that the security office was not staffed by Visteon employees, but was contracted by the company.   The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment to Visteon.