FMLA Leave Notice Struck Down

March 19, 2002 ( - The US Supreme Court handed employers a victory with a 5-4 ruling that companies do not have to tell workers that their maternity or medical leave policies satisfy federal law.

The ruling eliminates the danger that corporations could be sued for not helping workers understand how maternity or medical leaves satisfy the federally guaranteed 12-week leave, according to an Associated Press report.

Justices struck down a Labor Department regulation requiring the notice.

Dissenting Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said the notice “can facilitate leave planning, allowing employees to organize their health treatments or family obligations around the total amount of leave they will ultimately be provided.”

Joining O’Connor in the dissent were Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

Case Background

Arkansas shoe factory worker Tracy Ragsdale had sued her employer, Wolverine Worldwide Inc., claiming she was wrongly denied 12 weeks of leave under the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Ragsdale had worked at Wolverine less than a year when she was diagnosed with cancer in 1996. She was given an initial leave and several extensions. Wolverine fired Ragsdale when she used up the company’s seven-month maximum, but was still unable to work.

The company argued that it had already given Ragsdale, who had cancer, a more generous leave package than the law required.

The Eight US Circuit Court of Appeals said that the Labor Department regulation requiring notice was invalid because it goes beyond the FMLA’s scope. The Supreme Court agreed.

The case is Ragsdale v. Wolverine.