The Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") permits an employer to request an employee seeking FMLA leave due to a serious health condition to provide medical documentation establishing the need for leave. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently affirmed the dismissal of an employee's FMLA claim where the employee failed to provide sufficient information to support her entitlement to FMLA leave.
In Ahmed v. The Salvation Army, Ahmed requested FMLA leave for heart-related surgery. The Salvation Army provided FMLA paperwork to Ahmed, including a "Certification of Health Care Provider" form. Ahmed returned the Certification form twice, but with minimal information. After Ahmed submitted each incomplete form, The Salvation Army notified her that it could not approve her leave without sufficient information. Moreover, after Ahmed submitted the second incomplete form, the employer specifically explained that the certification must specify whether she would be able to perform some or all of her job functions and the expected duration of incapacity.
Thereafter, Ahmed missed three days of work and Salvation Army notified her that failure to submit a completed certification form would result in her termination. Ahmed did not comply and 23 days later, the Salvation Army terminated her.
The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Salvation Army on Ahmed's ADA and FMLA claims. With regard to her FMLA claim, the court ruled that Ahmed's failure to submit a completed certification form precluded The Salvation Army's duty to provide FMLA leave and Ahmed was not entitled to FMLA's protection. In particular, the Court noted that The Salvation Army complied with the FMLA regulations by advising Ahmed that her certification was incomplete, providing written notification of the specific deficiencies and providing her with more than seven days to provide the necessary information.
The Fourth Circuit's ruling illustrates that employees seeking FMLA protections are required to provide sufficient information for the employer to determine the need for leave. More importantly, the case reflects that employers who comply with the FMLA's notice and documentation regulations may avoid legal liability.
Collective Bargaining Agreement Governs Whether Time Spent Putting On and Removing Protective Gear is Compensable Under the FLSA
In Sandifer, et al. v. United States Steel Corporation, the Supreme Court recently rejected a class action lawsuit claiming that time spent putting on and removing protective gear is compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). Employees of United States Steel Corp. filed a putative collective action under the FLSA, seeking back pay for time spent "donning and doffing" pieces of protective gear that United States Steel Corporation requires workers to wear because of workplace hazards. U. S. Steel contended that this donning-and-doffing time, which would otherwise be compensable under the Act, was non-compensable under a provision of its collective bargaining agreement with petitioners' union. At 29 U.S.C. § 203(o), the FLSA provides time spent changing clothes at the beginning or end of each workday is non-compensable if excluded from "measured working time" under a collective bargaining agreement.
The Supreme Court held that changing clothes is not limited to substituting one article with another but includes placing articles over street clothes. According, the Court concluded that putting on and removing the protective gear was non-compensable.
The Court reasoned that "the object of §203(o) is to permit collective bargaining over the compensability of clothes-changing time and to promote the predictability achieved through mutually beneficial negotiation."
 The FMLA applies to employers who employ 50 employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year.