FMLA rights aren't a shield against following policy

Yes, employers have to bend over backwards to make sure employees get a chance to exercise their FMLA leave rights. But a recent court decision confirms that the company doesn’t have to bend its own rules to do so.
The case involves Loretta Thompson, who worked for a telecommunications company in Arkansas.
The company, CenturyTel, had a daily call-in requirement for employees who were going to be absent from work. If an employee was out on FMLA leave, he or she was expected to call in once a week.
Thompson went on approved FMLA leave for about four weeks. She failed to call in. Upon her return, Thompson was issued a verbal warning about the call-in requirement.
An apparent aversion to dialing
Over the next year, Thompson missed work several times.
After returning from missing 10 workdays (and only calling in once), Thompson again asked for FMLA leave, which was granted.
At that time, however, she was issued a written warning about not conforming to the company’s policies and procedures — the call-in requirement in particular.
About a year later, Thompson again missed several days of work — and again didn’t call in. She was fired.
Almost a month later, Thompson submitted a certification from her doctor  saying she had a serious medical condition — the time she’d missed should have been FMLA leave.
By the time the doctor had filled out the paperwork, however, Thompson was no longer a  CenturyTel employee.
A clear-cut case
Thompson sued, claiming the company had interfered with her rights under FMLA.
But the court wasn’t buying it.
The company had every right to fire her on account of her repeated violations of the call-in policy, the judge said. And those violations had nothing whatever to do with her FMLA rights.
Case dismissed.
Cite: Thompson v. CenturyTel of Central Arkansas. For a look at the full court decision, go here.