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Voicemails Notice of FMLA Request

Jake Waterman worked at White Interior Solutions as a floor finisher and installer. While employed, Waterman’s father was diagnosed with degenerative bone disease, polycythemia blood disease, and a ruptured aorta. Waterman had been sharing his father’s worsening condition with his supervisor and two coworkers. In April 2018, Waterman learned from his family that his father’s doctor stated that his dad would “most likely die” if he did not seek treatment immediately from the doctor. As he missed work the next day to be with his father, Waterman left a voicemail for his supervisor as required by company policy. He also left a message for the co-owner to explain the situation. He did not receive a response to his voicemails. Waterman was out from work for the next week to care for his father. On April 16, the company reached out to him because he had not returned to work. Waterman responded that his dad was “still pretty bad off” and could only “get out of bed a couple hours here and there during the day.” He was told to contact his supervisor, which Waterman protested via message. The co-owner fired him stating “[Y]ou abandoned your job according to everyone.”
Waterman brought suit for retaliation under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). White argued that Waterman’s absence was not protected because he had not given prior notice of his intent to leave under the FMLA. The federal district court disagreed and upheld Waterman’s right to proceed. The allegations reflected a reasonable inference that Waterman had given sufficient notice of his intent to take FMLA leave. He had communicated his father’s condition through the two voicemails and had told the co-owner about his father’s condition. There were also sufficient facts alleged to provide a causal connection between Waterman’s attempt to take FMLA leave and his subsequent termination. He was terminated just nine days after leaving to care for his father.