A recent decision issued by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals should give any employer subject to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) reason to pause.  The case started out as any other routine FMLA matter.  An employee provided her employer with documentation sufficient to request FMLA leave and the employee went off work.  The employer sent the employee the required FMLA designation paperwork through the US Mail specifying the duration of her leave.

No problem, right?  Think again.  The employer did not hear back from the employee and thus, terminated her employment when she failed to return from FMLA leave.  When the employee provided return to work documentation soon thereafter, the employer responded that she had already been discharged.  The employee claimed she never received the FMLA designation paperwork spelling out when her leave was up.

The employee filed a lawsuit alleging the employer interfered with her right to take FMLA leave by failing to notify her when her leave expired.  The employer argued it had informed the employee – by sending the FMLA designation paperwork to her via regular mail. 

The court refused to dismiss the employee’s lawsuit.  Basically, the court determined the dispute amounted to a “he said, she said,” and that a jury had to determine who was telling the truth.  The court also explained that there is a “strong presumption” an employee received FMLA paperwork, when the paperwork is sent certified mail.  Because the employer only utilized regular mail, however, it did not benefit from this presumption.

An important point is made in this case.  Any time it may be important to prove an employee (or anyone else for that matter) received correspondence, the best practice is to utilize certified mail or another process which provides a receipt of delivery.

If you have any questions about FMLA or any other labor and employment related matters, contact Masud Labor Law Group.