Second Circuit: Employers May Be Responsible for Determining if FMLA Leave Applies

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February 9, 2017

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The Second Circuit recently stated that employers are responsible for requesting additional information from an employee in order to determine if the employee is eligible for FMLA leave.

In Coutard v. Municipal Credit Union, employee Frantz Coutard requested FMLA leave to care for his grandfather.  Municipal Credit Union (“MCU”) denied this request, stating that grandparents were not covered under FMLA.  However, Coutard had not revealed that he and his grandfather had an in loco parentis relationship, which would qualify Coutard for FMLA leave.  Though Coutard’s leave request was denied, Coutard was nevertheless absent for approximately two weeks, and MCU fired Coutard for job abandonment.

The Second Circuit stated that the task of determining employee eligibility for FMLA resides with the employer.  Employees are only required to provide sufficient to put the employer on notice that the employee may qualify under FMLA.  From there, the employer is obligated to request any additional information needed to make the final eligibility determination.

According to the Second Circuit, Coutard’s request to care for his grandfather sufficiently indicated that Coutard “might” qualify for FMLA leave, and that MCU should have made further inquiry into Coutard’s request instead of immediately denying it.  These findings pronounce the need for employers to exercise extreme caution when considering and denying FMLA requests.  Employers should take care to consider all possible factors, and request additional information where needed, when determining FMLA eligibility.

Action Items

  1. Review FMLA leave request procedures to ensure that requests are not automatically denied without careful consideration of other factors.
  2. Consider consulting with legal counsel before denying FMLA leave.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

© 2017 ManagEase, Incorporated.

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