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- Family and Medical Leave Act Advisor

Content/Sufficiency of Employee Notice

An employee must provide at least verbal notice sufficient to make the employer aware of the need for FMLA-qualifying leave and the anticipated timing and duration of the leave.

Calling in "sick" without providing more information is not sufficient to trigger an employer's obligations under the FMLA. The employer should inquire further of the employee if it is necessary to have more information about whether FMLA leave is being sought and obtain the necessary details of the leave to be taken. An employee must respond to the employer's questions designed to determine if the leave is potentially FMLA qualifying. Failure to respond to reasonable employer inquiries regarding the leave request may result in denial of FMLA protection if the employer is unable to determine whether the leave is FMLA-qualifying.

The first time an employee seeks leave for an FMLA-qualifying reason, the employee need not expressly assert rights under the FMLA or even mention the FMLA. However, depending on the situation, sufficient information may include, for example:

  • That a condition makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the job, that the employee is pregnant or that the employee has been hospitalized overnight;
  • If the leave is for a family member, that the condition makes the family member unable to perform daily activities;
  • The anticipated duration of the absence;
  • Whether the employee or the employee's family member is under the continuing care of a health care provider;
  • That the requested leave is for a qualifying exigency arising out of a covered military member's active duty or call to active duty status; or
  • That the leave is to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness (military caregiver leave).

When an employee seeks leave for an FMLA-qualifying reason for which the employer has previously provided FMLA leave, the employee must specifically reference the qualifying reason for leave or the need for FMLA leave.

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For more information on this aspect of the FMLA, see the FMLA regulations: § 825.302 , § 825.303