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Woman sues for wrongful termination under FMLA

A surgical assistant in one of New York’s neighboring states says that she was wrongfully discharged after she suffered burns in an accident. While the woman worked in a medical facility, she says that she was not given time off to seek treatment for her burns.

The strange set of circumstances includes a threat of termination if she did not report to work when she notified her employer of her medical condition. When she complied with the order to return to work, a doctor at the facility advised her that she should stop working and report for medical treatment. She decided to follow the doctor’s advice the next day and reported to the hospital, a decision that she again brought to her employer’s attention.

When she was discharged from the hospital, she says that she was told not to return to work until the outpatient burn center gave her a release. About a week later, she was told she could return to work the first day of the next month—which is a relatively short time after she went out on leave, and far shorter of the twelve weeks available for protected leave under the FMLA. She says that she notified her employer of the potential return date and was given her walking papers.

The Family and Medical Leave Act provides qualified workers of covered companies with important job protections for family and medical issues. A personal serious medical condition needing treatment is among the various issues to which the FMLA applies.

The Department of Labor says that in general, a request for FMLA leave should be given with due notice. That would generally be satisfied with a 30-day advance notice. But, not all medical issues arise that far in advance. Some medical issues are not foreseeable. When a qualifying medical reason arises that needs more immediate attention, the DOL says that a worker should give notice as soon as he or she can under the specific circumstances.

Source: The Pennsylvania Record, “Fired surgical assistant for Pa. medical care facility sues for wrongful termination," Jon Campisi, Dec. 30, 2013

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