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Employer Loses After Demanding “Proof of Need” For Intermittent FMLA

Jill Diamond, a licensed social worker at the Hospice of Florida Keys, requested intermittent Family and Medical Leave when her parents became ill. The periodic leave taking happened over an eight-month period. Shortly thereafter, her mother became more seriously ill and Ms. Diamond requested more FMLA leave. She missed some days over a few week period. When she returned, the Hospice asked her for updated certification and other documents “to support the need for intermittent use of FMLA leave when a 30 day advance notice is not provided.”

Ms. Diamond questioned Hospice about needing more documentation. The Hospice responded that it needed “proof of need” such as documents from the hospital on the dates she was out or receipts for lodging, food, or gas from the town where her parents lived. Ms. Diamond complied and her time off was approved. Meanwhile, Ms. Diamond was told that her time away was compromising patient care and concerns were raised about her performance. She was fired shortly thereafter.

Filing suit against the Hospice, Ms. Diamond alleged FMLA interference and retaliation. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Hospice’s actions had the potential to discourage Ms. Diamond’s use of her FMLA leave. Pointing to the Hospice’s “proof of need” documents, the circuit court asserted that the type of documentation requested was not necessary to determine whether she needed leave but rather showed the Hospice trying to make it difficult for her to use leave.