Critical errors in Wisconsin man’s FMLA request

We read recently in a publication for Human Resources professionals a headline that was apparently intended to poke a little fun at a Wisconsin worker. The man had requested leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act and been denied and fired. Here’s the headline that ran in HR Morning: “Can an employee take FMLA leave for the death of a pet? Court weighs in.”

The man was not really asking for FMLA leave for the death of his beloved dog. Rather, he asked for the time off due to the insomnia that was triggered by the loss. He made a couple of errors along the way, however, which contributed to the rejection of his request.

The man worked as a machinist for a Fond du Lac company. When his dog died, he called and asked his supervisor if it was OK to take a vacation day to deal with the loss. The request was granted.

The man apparently did not convey to his supervisor the seriousness of the insomnia he was dealing with. The next day, he called in and said he would be unable to work due to his inability to sleep. This time, the absence was counted as unexcused.

That same day he went to an emergency room and was diagnosed with situational insomnia. The doctor wrote a note explaining the condition, but the note was missing a couple of crucial details: the doctor’s determination that the insomnia was ongoing and that it would prevent the man from performing essential elements of his job.

The court that heard the man’s lawsuit noted that insomnia is indeed a condition that can prevent a person from being able to do their job, but that in this particular case, the man had failed to document that his insomnia was that serious.

The court also noted that the man had failed to give inadequate notice to his employer of his need for leave.

So the issue here was not really as the publication’s headline presented it. The FMLA request was about insomnia, and if a similar, documented request was properly submitted, it could very well gain approval.

Those who have had a FMLA leave improperly rejected, or who have suffered retaliation for requesting a leave can contact the law offices of Alan C. Olson & Associates, s.c. for a free consultation about your legal options.


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