Court: FMLA Notice Could be Impractical

February 6, 2005 ( - A federal judge in Alabama handed workers a legal victory by ruling that an employer may not legally be able to require workers needing family leave to telephone the office an hour ahead of time.

The judge in the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama ruled that an employee who ended up suing his employer after being fired for calling in 54 minutes before his shift may have found it impractical to notify work before then, reported. The employee made the last-minute request for leave time under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) when he wife began having complications with her pregnancy, according to the report.

The FMLA regulations dealing with foreseeable leave and unforeseeable leave each have provisions allowing employees to notify employers of their need for leave “as soon as practicable,” and it may not have been practicable for the employee to report his inability to work more than one hour before his shift started, the judge ruled.

If the employee did not know he needed to stay home until it was nearly time to start his shift, then the employer’s one-hour notice requirement would be impractical and would violate the FMLA, the court said.