Notice of an Employee's Rights under FMLA Must Include Job Protection Rights

A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit highlights the importance of proper notice to employees of their rights and responsibilities under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). (Vannoy v. Fed. Reserve Bank of Richmond, 4th Cir., No. 14-2375 (6/28/16)). In that case, the plaintiff, who suffered from major depression and alcohol dependency, sought medical leave from his employer under the FMLA to attend an in-patient treatment program. While the employer granted the leave, its notice to the plaintiff of his rights and responsibilities lacked a critical component: information concerning job protection rights.

A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit highlights the importance of proper notice to employees of their rights and responsibilities under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). (Vannoy v. Fed. Reserve Bank of Richmond, 4th Cir., No. 14-2375 (6/28/16)). In that case, the plaintiff, who suffered from major depression and alcohol dependency, sought medical leave from his employer under the FMLA to attend an in-patient treatment program. While the employer granted the leave, its notice to the plaintiff of his rights and responsibilities lacked a critical component: information concerning job protection rights.

That failure alone would not have been actionable, but the plaintiff also alleged that because he did not know of those rights, he returned to work before his FMLA leave expired and was not able to complete an in-patient treatment program. Because the employer did not include that crucial information about job protection rights in its FMLA notice, and because the plaintiff was actually prejudiced by that omission, the Court of Appeals concluded that the plaintiff could go to a jury on his claim against the employer for interference with his rights under the FMLA.

Employers should note that this lawsuit was readily preventable: if the employer in this case had regularly reviewed its form notices regarding medical leave to ensure that the notices remained compliant with applicable law, the plaintiff would likely never be able to go before a jury on his claim for FMLA interference.

If you have any questions about FMLA or other employment law issues, please contact PLDO Principal William E. O'Gara at 401-824-5100 orwogara@pldolaw.com. We welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.

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