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Employer Entitled to Enforce Written FMLA Policy

An employee’s failure to comply with his employer’s written Family and Medical Leave Act policy doomed his claim for an FMLA violation.
Ommer Everson worked as a funeral director for SCI Tennessee Funeral Services (“SCI”). Diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, Mr. Everson required three distinct but brief FMLA leaves over a five-year period. For each of those medical leaves, he went directly to his supervisor to receive permission for the FMLA leave. His supervisor approved each of them. However, two days after requesting his third leave, Mr. Everson was terminated. He was told that the reason for his termination was that he left an unembalmed body out of refrigeration overnight, in violation of company policy.
Mr. Everson brought suit, alleging that he was fired in violation of FMLA and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In its defense, SCI argued that Mr. Everson had failed to follow the proper notice requirements for FMLA set forth in its employee manual. Employees needing leave were required to reach out to the SCI Leave and Disability Center. Even though Mr. Everson had notified his supervisor about the need for FMLA leave, the federal district court ruled that he was required to follow the company’s notice procedure in order to state a claim. His ADA claim was also dismissed because the company put forth a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for his termination.