FMLA Update: Pre-Eligibility Request for Post-Eligibility Leave May Be Protected

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]On March 29, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana held that an employee who makes a pre-eligibility request for post-eligibility FMLA leave is protected from retaliation from the employer.

In Morkoetter v. Sonoco Products Co., Lozano, R., the employee, alleged that he informed his employer of his disability and plans to take FMLA leave prior to becoming eligible. The employee further alleged that approximately five weeks prior to becoming eligible for FMLA leave, but after he provided notice of the need for future leave, the employer terminated his employment. The employee claimed his termination was retaliation for his plans to take FMLA leave after the one year anniversary of his hiring.

The employee filed a lawsuit against the employer and claimed violations of the FMLA. The employer moved to dismiss the claims. The employer argued that the employee was not an “eligible employee” by his own admission, because he had not worked for the employer for at least twelve months at the time he informed the employer of his need for FMLA leave in the future.

The District Court denied the employer’s motion to dismiss the FMLA claim, holding that a pre-eligibility request for post-eligibility leave is protected by the FMLA. Otherwise, the District Court reasoned, the aims of the FMLA would be thwarted because employees who are required to provide notice of foreseeable leave would be left unprotected from retaliation. Furthermore, the District Court reasoned that the FMLA is intended to support employees and employers in planning for future FMLA absences and, therefore, it would be counterproductive to discourage employees from sharing information regarding the need for future leave well in advance of the that leave.

In light of these developments, employers should evaluate internal procedures to ensure that FMLA leave requests are administered accordingly.

For additional information on how this case affects your business, contact any member of the KDDK Labor and Employment Law Practice Team.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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