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Worker didn’t follow FMLA request policy, court OKs her firing

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A recent court case showed how one employer defeated an FMLA retaliation lawsuit just by enforcing its call-out procedures.

Here’s a breakdown of what happened.

Made only one call

Kelly Soutner worked for Penn State Health when she needed to take FMLA leave.

The company’s procedure for requesting FMLA leave involved making two calls – one to the designated “call-off” line and the other to a third-party administrator explaining the need for the leave.

When Soutner made the call though, she only placed one of the required calls, violating company policy. This resulted in her earning disciplinary points.

Eventually, Soutner reached her maximum allotment of points and was let go. She sued, claiming the company interfered with her FMLA leave, then retaliated against her.

But the 3rd Circuit sided with the company. The court said that Soutner failed to follow the FMLA request protocol, and she could provide no reason for why she didn’t.

The court added, “An employee must comply with the employer’s requirements for requesting leave, unless those requirements conflict with the FMLA.”

Therefore, Penn State Health didn’t violate any laws by enforcing its call-out policy.

Cite: Soutner v. Penn State Health, 1/13/21.

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