Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Feb 15, 2019

Consider FMLA even if not directly requested

Leave LawsTermination & Resignation 

Employers may need to offer leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) even when employees don’t ask, ruled a federal district court in Michigan.

In this case, a 15-year account manager with an automotive packing company was nearing retirement. He continued to work part-time while battling brain cancer, and received significant annual bonuses. Bonuses were measured based on calendar year performance, and required the employee to be employed during the first quarter of the following year. Twice he met with company executives to discuss his retirement and health before deciding to retire on December 31, not realizing that he would need to be employed during the first quarter of the following year to receive his bonus. When he didn’t receive his annual bonus, he filed suit alleging FMLA interference, disability discrimination, and multiple contract claims. The court said a jury should decide at least one contract claim and the FMLA interference claim. The court zeroed in on the two conversations he had with the company officers. Although he didn’t specifically request FMLA leave, the court felt there was sufficient notice of his desire to take leave for health reasons (Sienkiewicz v. Creative Techniques, Inc., ED Mich, Oct. 2018).

FMLA Tips for Employers

Even if FMLA isn’t requested, it should be considered when a health condition is known. Human Resources should be involved in conversations and decisions regarding employee termination, especially when there are health or disability issues. In this particular case, the company officers were probably not aware of the various leaves that could be triggered by the account manager’s condition.

Resources for Leave Law Questions

Questions about how to handle the potential departure of an employee with medical issues? Contact us to learn about working with a dedicated Vigilant employment attorney for help with leave laws and more, all accessible with a flat monthly fee. For more leave law-related blogs, visit the leave laws section of our employment law blog.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.