Small Business Spoonfuls Podcast

SBS 220: FMLA Requests: What Do They Sound Like?

Hey Compliance Warriors!

In this episode, we discuss FMLA requests. How much information is required to qualify? We also discuss a case study!

Don’t forget to rate, review and subscribe on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or Stitcher!
Enjoy and until next time, Be Audit Secure!


Lisa: Welcome back to another edition of small business spoonful’s. I’m Lisa Smith

Mason: ..and I’m Mason Merrell.

Lisa: This time we’re talking about FMLA

Mason: That is right. We get a lot of FMLA questions.

Lisa: Yeah, we do. And one of the biggest questions is: “My employee has been gone for this reason or that reason. They never requested FMLA, but should I be looking into this? Is that something I should have just talked to them about?” The answer is absolutely yes.

Mason: That is important

LisaI HR we’ve got to train our managers and supervisors to understand what FMLA looks like because the employee doesn’t always come to us and say, “I need FMLA.”

Mason: So, in turn we have to train ourselves.

Lisa: I mean how many times is an employee come in and said something of the nature of ‘yeah, my poor daughter, she is struggling so hard with XYZ condition and we’re going to multiple doctor visits and specialists and it’s a whole thing.’  And not once does that employee ever mentioned FMLA. Now, first we need to say that not every employee qualifies for FMLA. So if you are an employer with 50 or more employees and they work within a 75 mile radius of the place that they report to, then you’re probably a covered employer and your employee also has to,  meet like 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months that they’ve worked with your company. But they have to also work for your company a total of 12 months. So, there are rules involved here, but let’s just say that you’re covered, and they’re covered. How do we then decipher when FMLA needs to be initiated? That’s the big question.

Mason: Yep. It could be as simple as I have the employee comes in and says, I have a family emergency. And that could trigger those protections to come into play or it could be something more extensive. So, we’re going to talk about a recent case here.

Lisa: Yeah. And this is exactly what happened. And employee came in, told the boss: “I’ve got to have some leave time off to deal with a family emergency.” Now they didn’t say what it was. They didn’t say FMLA. They didn’t say, they just said a family emergency.

Mason: Yep. So, the problem here though was the employer, the person in charge of this just checked them at the door and said, “No you can’t have the time off. “

Lisa: That’s right. Just flat refused. Then the employee went and got an attorney and I’m sure it wasn’t like they said no today and tomorrow they we’re being sued. There’s always more to the story. But bottom line is it was denied. And basically, when somebody denies you leave, if you take it any way you get fired. So this employee figured out that this should have been FMLA and went and got an attorney and sued under this interference and deprivation of this right.

Mason: Yeah. So the employer or the HR manager, everybody was in hot water on this.

Lisa: Yeah absolutely. So, the court sided of course with the employee saying that the designation of a family emergency was enough that the company should have said, “Huh, maybe we need to examine this a little more carefully before we say no.”

Mason: Yeah. That, that should kind of be a trigger word for FMLA when you’re kind of thinking about it, a family emergency. Okay. You can’t just check somebody’s at the door for that. Depending on the circumstance or whatnot or if you feel like it may not be or what not, you still have to look into it. You still have to investigate it just a little bit.

Lisa: That’s right. Now, FMLA regulations say that the employee is only required to give you a short and plain statement. So they don’t have to go into a lot of detail that if of course you initiate this process, then you’re going to probably go through the certification process and you’re still not allowed to know every detail but you are allowed to make sure that this is a covered situation. In this case, they didn’t do any of the work. They just said no and they ended up with a problem. So, the family member or the individual ended up with a serious health condition that qualified for FMLA leave and they went forward. If you want to go look this case, Abbott’s Chris Christianson versus the Boeing Company. So, you can go look that up and read all about it yourself to make sure you don’t make those same mistakes.

Mason: Yeah, that’s right. So just a kind of a warning tale of kind of what can happen if we’re not looking into these things or trusting our employees, I guess to some to some degree.

Lisa: Yeah. Quick to judge, not listening, not asking the right questions. And it can be hard. I mean, a trap that employer sometimes fall in is you have this employee that’s always taking off and then they come in, they’ve got a family emergency and you’re like “Yeah Right!.”

Mason: Yeah, we get emails like that daily almost on the regular though: “The employees taken off again or we don’t know what’s exactly going on with him.” “He mentioned he might have an alcohol problem” or something like that and those are serious things to take into account , but even though it can be frustrating sometimes we still have to look into it.

Lisa: Yeah. And just don’t be judgmental no matter how judgmental you want to be because of past behavior with that person. Remember, all it takes is this one episode and then you’re all in court. All right, well there we go. I think that’s a wrap for today. Then if you have any questions about FMLA, reach out to us. We’re always happy to answer your questions if you’re one of our members, you know, of course, personally. And then if you’re a listener and you’re not a member of HelpDeskSuites.com, then we’ll probably talk about your question on the podcast. So, hey, reach out and until next time, I’m Lisa Smith

Mason: and I Mason Merrell

Lisa: Be Audit Secure


Log in or Register to save this content for later.