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Court Rejects Employer’s Heightened FMLA Notice Requirement

Lashondra Moore advised her Burger King manager that she needed a week of leave in order to care for her mother, who had a life-threatening serious health condition that would require immediate surgery. The manager granted her the time off but required her to come into work for a shift. When she arrived for the shift, Moore was fired for tardiness and for failing to come into work on some of the days of that week. Moore sued for FMLA interference, based on the denial of her leave and subsequent termination.
According to FMLA regulations, employees must “comply with the employer’s usual and customary notice and procedural requirements for requesting leave.” Burger King argued that Moore failed to provide the required notice of her FMLA leave. Moore had requested leave from her manager and the district manager. However, she did not contact HR as required by the company’s FMLA policy.
The Alabama district court rejected the company’s argument that Moore needed to notify HR directly. The court reasoned that it did not make sense to demand that employees, who may not understand that their leave qualifies for FMLA, have to follow a notice procedure that only applies to leave under the FMLA. Requests for other forms of leave at Burger King were not restricted to the same request process, only FMLA leave requests had to go through HR. Moore asserted she was unaware of the policy; the court noted she had just a few minutes to review the employee handbook and sign paperwork. Moreover, managers were not trained on Burger King’s FMLA policy, a policy that requires managers to tell employees who ask for FMLA qualifying leave to notify HR. Moore’s manager did not tell her to contact HR. According to the court, the manager’s failure to notify her made it partially to blame for Moore not alerting HR. Moore will be permitted to proceed on her claim.