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Top Ten Issues In Employment Law For HR Professionals In Virginia in 2008: #7

Published by on January 26, 2009

We will be posting over the next week the top ten developments in employment law for HR professionals in Virginia in 2008.  The list is in no particular order.  Topic number 7 is: Any Notice Is Sufficient Notice Of Need For FMLA Leave.  More after the break. In Krenzke v. Alexandria Motor Cars, Inc., the […]

We will be posting over the next week the top ten developments in employment law for HR professionals in Virginia in 2008.  The list is in no particular order.  Topic number 7 is:

Any Notice Is Sufficient Notice Of Need For FMLA Leave.  More after the break.

In Krenzke v. Alexandria Motor Cars, Inc., the court found that a doctor’s note faxed to the employer stating, “I recommend 2 weeks of no work due to medical complications and illness” was sufficient to alert the employer of the possibility that the leave may be covered by the FMLA.  The court observed that, “[a]lthough the note was summary in nature, it was received from a medical doctor and stated that an extended leave was needed for medical reasons.”  The note shifted the burden of inquiry to the employer to gather additional information and determine if the leave was actually covered by the FMLA.   Krenzke failed to comply with the employer’s handbook policies on requesting medical leave in writing.  Regardless, the court concluded that Krenzke provided sufficient notice that she was entitled to leave under the FMLA. 

The decision is aligned with cases that have addressed the tipping point where the employee has provided enough, although incomplete, information suggesting the possibility that the FMLA may be involved to shift the burden of inquiry to the employer.  There are simply no magic words that trigger an employee’s rights under the FMLA.  Employers should inform supervisors that the words “leave” or “FMLA” need not be mentioned to trigger the employer’s duty to enter into the interactive process.  As a precaution, if the employee provides information that may reasonably apprise the employer of the need for FMLA leave, the employer should ask for more information from the employee.   Employers should always consider making further inquiries when any notice is provided to determine if the FMLA may be implicated. 

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