Letter From Doctor Enough Notice for FMLA Leave

March 15, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com)—A letter written to an employer from an employee's doctor notifying the company that the employee should not work there, is sufficient notice for the employee to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a federal court ruled.

>Dean Conrad, an employee at Eaton Corp., a manufacturing plant, took leave under FMLA, saying he was suffering from depression and emotional distress.   The U.S. District Court for Northern Iowa ruled that this condition was a serious health condition, granting him sufficient reason to take leave under FMLA.

>While he was on leave, Eaton Corp. terminated him, alleging that Conrad was not taking steps required to resolve the problematic work behaviors which he was to be addressing.   They then sued him, claiming violations of the FMLA.   The company maintained that he had not given sufficient notice of his need for leave and also contended that, because Conrad’s psychiatrist had said that he would be able to perform household chores and could complete work needed by other employers, that the employee did not have a serious health condition.

>However, the court disagreed, and cited past court decisions in which it was decided that a serious health condition can be one which only affects an employee’s ability to do his own job, and can still perform responsibilities required by others.