Fired employee’s FMLA case can go forward

Communication between California employers and their employees could prevent court battles over the right to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The case of a man fired by a credit union hinged upon insufficient communication. Although a federal district court granted a summary judgment in the employer’s favor, based upon the employee not providing enough details when taking leave, the appeals court disagreed because the employer should have made a greater effort to gather information. This ruling will allow the case to heard by a jury.

At issue was the fact that the man had taken a leave to care for his ailing grandfather. The employer stated that FMLA does not apply to the care of a grandparent. The appeals court, however, recognized that the man’s grandfather had acted as the man’s father when he was growing up. When the man was 4 years old, his biological father died, and his grandfather filled the void until the man reached the age of 14. In the opinion of the appeals court, the employer had enough information about the employee’s situation to assume that he might qualify for leave under FMLA. The employer bore the responsibility of getting additional information from the employee before deciding that he did not qualify for a leave.

Some employees meet with resistance when they request leave to attend to family responsibilities or for maternity or paternity leave. Those who have been denied leave or who have had an employer retaliate after taking time off under the protection of FMLA could consult an attorney familiar with employment law. There might be a way to resolve the matter short of litigation.

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