FMLA Notices Sent by Email May Not Be Sufficient

If you have requested Family Medical Leave, you are aware of the notices that employers are required to provide employees regarding time off under FMLA. Ongoing communication between you and your employer is critical throughout the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) process. Sometimes questions arise as to whether the notice that has been provided was sufficient to comply with the rules. A recent case in Michigan addressed the sufficiency of certain methods of providing notice to employees.

What Types of Notices Are Employers Required to Give Under the FMLA?

There are certain notices that employers are required to provide to all employees, and to employees who have requested leave under the FMLA. First, employers must provide all employees general notice regarding their rights under the FMLA. This includes displaying a poster in plain view for all employees to see, notifying them of the FMLA provisions and providing instructions on how to file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division. This notice must be displayed regardless of whether there are any FMLA eligible employees.

Second, whenever an employee requests FMLA leave, that employee must be notified of his or her eligibility status and rights and responsibilities under the FMLA. When leave has been taken, the employer must also notify the employee as to whether that leave is designated as FMLA leave and the amount of time that will count against the employee's FMLA leave entitlement.

Notification by Email Is Unreliable

In a recent case against MotorCity Casino, an employee was suffering from a degenerative spinal disorder, which resulted in the employee taking intermittent FMLA leave numerous times. Her employer subsequently sought recertification of her condition, and the FMLA notices were sent to her by email, instead of U.S. mail as had been done in the past.

The employee asserted that she did not receive the emailed FMLA notices. However, because she failed to return the recertification her employer requested, she was terminated for unexcused absences. The court ruled that oral notice was the preferred method because it was the only method that guarantees person-to-person communication. As to the email notification, the court held that, without proof that the email was opened and actually received, it could only amount to constructive notice. Consequently, only a jury could determine whether the notice was sufficient.

Do I Need to Provide My Employer with Any Notices?

As an employee, you are also required to provide certain notices to your employer, in order to comply with the FMLA's regulations. First, you must let your employer know each time you need to take FMLA leave, as soon as possible. You are also required to respond to any questions your employer may ask for the purpose of determining whether the leave you are requesting qualifies for FMLA. If you do not comply, you run the risk of jeopardizing your FMLA rights.

Once you have been approved for a particular FMLA leave reason, you are required to notify your employer when additional leave is needed for that same reason. Such notification must reference the reason or the need for FMLA leave. An employee's notice of a request for FMLA leave can be either written or verbal. However, if your notice is written, it would be best to do so in person. As the case mentioned above shows, email is not always a reliable method of providing important notices such as these.

If you have questions regarding your rights under the FMLA or any other aspect of employment law, please contact Wrady & Michel, LLC. Get in touch with our Birmingham employment lawyers today via our online case evaluation form or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.

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