When an employee’s request for medical leave is vague or is unclear, the Family and Medical Leave Act regulations specifically allow (in fact, they require) the employer to question the employee further to determine whether the absence potentially qualifies under the FMLA. When the employee fails to respond to these reasonable inquiries, the employee may lose the right to FMLA protection.
Such was the case for Robert Righi. In a fantastic opinion for employers, a federal appellate court recently upheld the dismissal of Mr. Righi’s FMLA claim because he failed to respond to his supervisor’s telephone calls inquiring about his need for a leave of absence. Righi v. SMC Corporation of America
Righi, a salesman for SMC Corp., was the primary caretaker for his mother, who regularly suffered complications from diabetes. As a result, Righi often took FMLA leave to care for her. On the occasion at issue, however, he asked for time off after his mother accidentally overdosed on her medication.