A recent court case sets a precedent that an employer who fails to return phone calls from employees on FMLA leave may be liable for FMLA retaliation claims.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows qualifying employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to deal with their own health issues or those of family members. In this case, a nurse took her full 12 weeks because of hearing problems but provided weekly updates to her supervisor, who often didn't return her phone calls. When her leave was exhausted, she requested an additional week before returning to work. She was immediately terminated for failing to return to her place of employment upon the end of her qualified leave period.

In Hofferica v. St. Mary Medical Center, a federal court in Pennsylvania threw out the suing nurse's FMLA interference claim (since she admitted that she had exhausted all her leave) but sided with her on her FMLA retaliation claim, indicating that the supervisor's failure to return phone calls represented a pattern of abuse. The case now goes before a jury.

This adds another wrinkle for businesses that are covered by state and/or federal FMLA laws. Fortunately, Personnel Concepts offers a comprehensive guide to following FMLA rules and regulations. Get your copy of our FMLA Regulatory Updates Compliance Kit today.