To Claim Interference There Must Be Interference
Posted: November 15, 2023
In a Nov. 6, 2023 case out of Florida, an employee took leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) once already for his back and hip but claimed that his employer failed to inform him that he could take additional leave for his mental health.
Most of us know that the FMLA affords eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of leave during any 12-month period for, among other things, a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the position.
We also are aware that employers cannot interfere with exercising or attempting to exercise any FMLA rights. For example, when an employee requests FMLA leave or when the employer knows that an employee's leave may be for an FMLA-qualifying reason, the employer must notify the employee of the employee's eligibility to take FMLA leave. However, the FMLA requires that the employee actually seek leave to trigger an employer's obligation to provide the employee with information about the FMLA.
Now, let us return to our plaintiff in Chandler v. Sherriff, Walton County (Florida). Chandler argued that three employees of the defendant "interfered with his FMLA rights by not informing him that he could take leave under the FMLA for his mental health after he expressed his struggles with depression and PTSD, he had not requested leave or another accommodation and therefore did not trigger his employer's affirmative duty to notify him of his rights under the FMLA."
The plaintiff never requested leave or another accommodation. Therefore, the employer had no duty to notify him of his rights under the FMLA.
Could the defendant have provided the plaintiff with FMLA information? Sure. However, many employees suffer from mental health disorders and do not need leave from work to treat them.
Likewise, the defendant would have had no duty to accommodate absent an affirmative request unless the need for an accommodation was obvious. Generally, an individual requesting an accommodation must let the employer know that they need an adjustment or change at work for a reason related to a medical condition. "[T]he duty to provide a reasonable accommodation is not triggered unless a specific demand for an accommodation has been made."
Posted In: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA); Reasonable Accommodation
Want to know more? Read the full article by Eric B. Meyer at The Employer Handbook