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Another Reminder to Make Sure Supervisors Understand FMLA

The Center of Human Development (CHD) had a written policy requiring employees to personally provide notice if they needed to miss work. An unyielding adherence to this policy by managers lacking sufficient Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) knowledge resulted in a larger judgment against CHD. 

One of CHD’s employees, Grace Boadi, was hospitalized. The nature of her ailment made it very difficult for her to call in. Instead, her son called her direct supervisor (and the next level up supervisor) to let CHD know that she was in the hospital. In fact, Ms. Jackson's son called four times over a four day period. On the fourth day, the son was told by the supervisor that it was “not acceptable for him” to be the one calling about the absences. This supervisor did let CHD’s vice president (VP) of human resources know that Ms. Boadi was hospitalized and could not come to work. Yet, a few days later, this same supervisor advised the VP that Ms. Boadi had not called in and had not shown up. As a result, the VP prepared a termination letter for Ms. Boadi. When Ms. Boadi was released from the hospital, her doctor provided CHD with a certificate evidencing her required leave of absence. Ms. Boadi was fired for failing to notify CHD of her absences. 

The jury hearing the case found that CHD had clearly violated the FMLA when it refused to allow Ms. Boadi’s son to notify the company about her absences and then terminated her without asking any questions about the illness. None of the individuals involved seemingly took into consideration FMLA requirements before terminating her or sought advice. The supervisor initiating the termination had no FMLA training and the VP never inquired about her condition. Even after receiving the doctor’s certification of her leave, CHD did not reconsider its decision. The violation was considered so egregious that Ms. Boadi was awarded liquidated damages that doubled her back pay award.