New DOL Regulations Raises Threshold For Exempt “Professional” Employees.
March 24, 2016
Telling Co-worker About Chest Pains Might Constitute Notice Under FMLA
April 20, 2016
Greene was a truck driver for YRC out of Baltimore, Maryland and was called in for a “dispatch” early one morning. Greene begrudging accepted the trip and arrived at his place of employment shortly after midnight. Once there he and his supervisor argued over whether he was entitled to an additional 15 minutes of pay relating to an earlier incident. Greene claims he was upset about the argument and began experiencing chest pains, stomach pains and shaking hands. Nevertheless, he began to hook up his trailer. As his symptoms worsened, he realized he could not make the trip and decided to go home. He informed a co-worker to tell his supervisor about his chest pains and that he was going home. He was fired for “voluntary quit”.
Greene sued (Greene v. YRC, Inc., February 19,2016) alleging interference with his FMLA rights to protected leave and retaliation for exercising his FMLA rights. YRC filed a motion for summary judgment. Finding that sufficient facts existed for a reasonable jury to conclude that Greene had a serious health condition and that he gave proper notice, the District Court denied the Defendant's motion.
“Once the employee has provided at least verbal notice of a serious health condition sufficient to alert the employer to the fact that the protections of the FMLA may apply, ‘[t]he employer should inquire further to ascertain whether it is FMLA leave that is being sought and to obtain further details of this leave,’” the court opined, citing Brushwood v. Wachovia Bank, N.A., 520 F. App'x 154, 157 (4th Cir. 2013). Even though YRC had a company policy for giving notice of the need for FMLA leave, there were questions of fact as to what those requirements were and whether Greene complied.
YRC gave a different version of the events and claimed the voluntary quit was based on Greene’s walking off the job in anger over the argument. The court acknowledged these factual disagreements, but as any attorney worth his salt will tell you, asserting factual disputes does not get a Defendant to summary judgment. Juries decide facts. The court rightfully denied the motion and let the case go to the jury.
The take-away: Apply your leave notice requirements faithfully to everyone. When in doubt, send the FMLA packet.