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Employee Rights with Family and Medical Leave

April 28, 2017

On March 17, 2017 in Yolich v. Financial Management Systems, Inc., the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ruled in favor of employer Financial Management Systems, Inc. (FMS) on a motion for summary judgment, finding that FMS did not interfere with employee James Yolich (Yolich) exercising his rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 or retaliate against him under the FMLA. The case arose after Yolich was terminated when he took a long leave of absence after undergoing surgery, failed to inform FMS that he was taking a long leave of absence, failed to return the requested paperwork to substantiate his FMLA leave, and failed to respond when FMS contacted him.

Before Yolich took his leave of absence, he informed his supervisor that he would be out of work for a few days for a medical procedure. Yolich’s supervisor told him that if he would be absent for more than a few days, that he should go to the Human Resources Department (HRD) and request FMLA leave. Yolich claimed that he did not go to the HRD. FMS claimed that its employee who was in charge of FMLA leave handed Yolich a letter with a FMLA Certification Form WH-380E and a FMLA Designation Form WH-381 and explained his FMLA rights to him, but Yolich denied that this occurred.

After Yolich had been absent from work for a few days, FMS repeatedly called him and mailed the FMLA forms and letter, and sent the forms and letter via FedEx Overnight to the address that Yolich had provided on FMS’s Confidential Data Form. Yolich denied that these communications occurred or claimed that he could not recall them.

The court ruled in FMS’s favor on the interference claim, finding that it was Yolich’s responsibility to let FMS know that he needed FMLA leave and to complete and return the FMLA documentation and certification. As for the FMLA retaliation claim, the court found that no one at FMS made derogatory comments about Yolich’s requiring medical leave or about his medical status. In addition, even though Yolich did not let FMS know that he needed FMLA leave or return the FMLA paperwork, FMS undertook efforts to find out why he did not return to his job. The facts demonstrated that Yolich was absent from work without properly notifying FMS and that he failed to respond to FMS’s communications about his absence, which lead to him being terminated for too many absences.

According to this case, an employer may require its employee to notify it of their need for FMLA leave and can require the employee to return the FMLA paperwork.

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