Eligible Pennsylvanians who work for employers that are covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act can apply for medical leave when they need it. Recently, a court decision in the state made the process a little easier. If your FMLA leave request is denied, or your employer retaliates against you for requesting or taking FMLA leave, you might want to talk to the employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler.
Factual background of the case
Deborah Hansler was employed by the Lehigh Valley Health Network when she experienced health problems that began affecting her life. She sought treatment from a doctor, but the doctor needed to run tests to diagnose her condition. While Hansler was waiting for the tests, the doctor told her to take it easy.
Hansler applied for intermittent leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Her doctor completed her part of the paperwork but didn’t name a medical condition because the testing and diagnosis had not been completed. Hansler’s employer did not give her any feedback after she turned in the forms. She called in sick to work for several days. Her employer fired her at the end of the month for excessive absenteeism.
Hansler believed that the FMLA forms that she had filed should protect her from termination. However, her employer said they did not because Hansler had failed to provide evidence that she had a serious health condition.
After she was terminated from her job, Hansler learned that she had high blood pressure and diabetes. Hansler retained a lawyer and filed a lawsuit against her former employer, alleging that it had interfered with her right to FMLA leave. She argued that the business should have allowed her the ability to correct the paperwork instead of firing her.
Hansler’s employer asked the court to dismiss her case. It argued that it had denied her leave based on her medical certification since her doctor did not list a diagnosis of a serious medical condition. It also argued that it could not anticipate the diagnosis that she ultimately received that showed that she did have a chronic and serious health condition.
Appeals court ruling
The appeals court ruled against the company. It found that Lehigh Valley Health Network had violated Hansler’s FMLA rights. It also established rules that employers in Pennsylvania must follow when they evaluate FMLA leave requests.
What employers have to do
The court did not suggest that employers have to predict the future medical conditions of their employees. Instead, it focused on the way in which employers should handle incomplete FMLA paperwork. Employers are now required to give notice to the employees that the paperwork contains deficiencies. The employers must then give them seven days to make corrections unless the timeframe is impractical under the employees’ circumstances.
While some conditions are not covered by the FMLA, serious medical conditions are. A serious medical condition is one that requires inpatient treatment in a hospital or ongoing treatment by a medical professional. Ongoing treatment can include the following:
- Health conditions that require visits at least twice yearly for treatment;
- Continuing treatment that extends over a lengthy period of time; and
- Certain conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes, or asthma that can cause episodic periods of incapacity.
Contact the employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler
If your employer denied your request for FMLA leave because of your serious medical condition, you should talk to one of the experienced lawyers at Swartz Swidler. Call us today to schedule a free consultation to learn about the rights that you might have.