As we noted in a prior post, the specific language in a Family Medical Leave Act notice, is critical since employees commonly rely on such information so that they can make informed decisions about when and how much unpaid leave they can take.

Similarly, the communication and recording of such leave is critical to prevent unlawful punishments. Unfortunately, this was the case for a factory employee who hurt his back and sought (and was granted) intermittent FMLA leave. 

First and foremost, federal law allows qualified employees to take leave on an intermittent (i.e. temporary, irregular interval) basis or to work a reduced schedule to help deal with injuries that prevent them from working. The factory worker in this instance sought such leave after seeking medical attention for lower back pain. A nurse practitioner prescribed him muscle relaxants and advised him to undergo physical therapy. He sought and was approved for intermittent FMLA leave and he missed three days of work.

Months later, the worker missed additional time after hurting his back doing yard work. He initially went to work but left early due to being in pain. He went to urgent care and secured documentation from a nurse excusing him from work. However, when he submitted his note to HR, he learned that he was docked several points for missing work. He was subsequently fired for violating the company’s policy for missing too many days of work.

The court found that the employer improperly interfered with the worker’s FMLA request and awarded damages based on the fact that he had suffered a chronic condition based on his visits to urgent care.

If you have questions about your right to FMLA leave, an experienced employment law attorney can help.