Except in the most exigent situations, I always tell clients not to make precipitous employment decisions. This is especially true in circumstances where the decision is irrevocable, such as a termination. And it's really, especially, true when dealing with an FMLA situation. The statute itself and the associated regulatory framework are simply too complex for most employers to make a snap judgment regarding someone's entitlement to FMLA leave, or, even worse, a termination decision based on a denial of FMLA benefits.
So if I had been on the phone with the employer in this case, I would've told it to hold up before terminating the employee in question, who, as it turned out, was suffering from an undiagnosed case of diabetes. The employee needed time off from work for a diagnosis, and applied for FMLA leave. Unfortunately, the paperwork that she turned in was not properly filled out. The company apparently sent the employee a denial letter, but when she did not respond, the company terminated her for missing too much work.
Bad move. FMLA regulations specifically require a seven-day waiting period between notification of an insufficient FMLA certification form and any type of employment decision, including denial of FMLA leave. In this case, the court found that the employer jumped the gun-it should have provided formal notice to the employee of its denial, and then ensured that she had a seven day grace period in which to respond.
The implications here are not particularly surprising-an employer must make certain that it crosses its Ts and dots its Is when moving on a denial of FMLA leave decision. The opinion is a thorough and well-reasoned assessment of why FMLA cases must be treated with particular care.