Court says Family and Medical Leave Act is not automatic

The phone rings, and it is a family member expressing the need for one to come home to help take care of an ailing parent. Or perhaps, the individual is ill and requires time away from work. Regardless of what type of situation a Wisconsin employee may find himself in, a court has recently stated that benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act are not automatic. They must be formally requested.

In 2007, an employee informed her supervisor that she would need some time to go take care of a sick parent. She then took leave for two weeks and traveled to her father’s bedside. After arriving there, she realized that two weeks would not be long enough. Believing that she was covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act, she remained at his bedside without contacting her employer.

When she did not return at the end of the two weeks, her employment was terminated. After 18 years of employment, her employer stated that she did not call in so she was no longer employed there. This employee filed a lawsuit claiming that her termination was a violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

This lawsuit finally worked its way through the court of appeals. They have ruled that because she did not formally request benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act, she did not receive them. They stated that these benefits were not automatic and that she could have declined them. This ruling serves as a reminder to Wisconsin employees to make sure that the proper paperwork is completed in the event that it is necessary to use Family and Medical Leave Act benefits.

Source: met news.com, Court rules for employer in family leave controversy, Michael J. Peil, Feb. 26, 2014

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