Employer Cleared of FMLA Wrongdoing

March 15, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – A federal appellate court has upheld a lower court decision sanctioning the firing of an employee for not properly communicating with his supervisor while on family leave.

U.S. Circuit Judge Diane S. Sykes, in writing for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled that plaintiff Robert Right did not have a legal leg to stand on in his case against SMC Corporation for violating the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by firing him for violating company leave policies when he returned from tending to his sick mother.

Sykes said the lower court judge was correct in ruling for the employer after finding Right did not properly tell SMC when he anticipated getting back to work, which was a violation of both company policy and FMLA regulations. He also did not respond to a supervisor’s repeated attempts to contact him while Right was on leave.

“Right’s failure to respond to these calls or otherwise contact his employer dooms his FMLA claim,” Sykes wrote. “The FMLA does not authorize employees to keep their employers in the dark about when they will return from leave.”

The Righi case very well illustrates how an employer should ask more questions when a request for FMLA leave is in doubt and demonstrates the importance of having policies that require employees to communicate with them while they are on leave, Employer Law Report said in a story about the case.  The ruling is here.