Employer’s FMLA Policy and Legitimate Business Reason Lead to Early Dismissal of Employee’s Claim
In Everson v. SCI Tennessee Funeral Services, LLC., the federal court granted summary judgment dismissing Plaintiff’s FMLA claims because the worker failed to follow Defendant’s FMLA notice requirements when requesting leave. As discussed below, Plaintiff’s ADA claim also was dismissed.
In this lawsuit, Plaintiff alleged, among other things, that Defendant retaliated against him for requesting FMLA leave. The fact pattern is a common one. It began several years earlier when Plaintiff requested time off for a medical procedure. Subsequently, Plaintiff informed the employer that he was going to need to have another procedure and requested one week off from work, which Defendant also granted. Two days later, Plaintiff, a funeral director, was fired for leaving an embalmed body at one of Defendant’s facilities without refrigeration in violation of Defendant’s policy.
In its summary judgment motion, the employer asserted that Plaintiff failed to properly give notice of his intent to take FMLA leave. According to the Defendant’s FMLA policy, Plaintiff was required to contact the Leave and Disability Center to make a request for FMLA leave. Plaintiff countered that he provided notice to his supervisor each time he took off for a procedure. Here, the Court found that Plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case because Plaintiff did not follow the proper notice and requirements for taking FMLA leave that Defendant established and as permitted under federal regulations. The ADA claim also was dismissed because Defendant articulated a legitimate, non-discriminatory basis for Plaintiff’s termination.
Employers should review their FMLA policies to be sure they are detailed and specific as they can create, within the bounds of regulations, detailed procedures that employees must follow. By doing so, employers may be able to limit liability for certain FMLA claims. Nevertheless, management training is recommended to help supervisors identify notice and other obligations.