Not long ago, I got a call from an upset manager …
“Jack called and said he’s not going to be at work for at least 2 weeks because his girlfriend had a baby. He didn’t give me any notice! Can I write him up for that?”
Um. How long has Jack worked for us?
“Almost 3 years.”
Then he’s entitled to take the time off for the birth of his child under the FMLA.
“FMLA? He’s didn’t say he was notifying me about FMLA. He just said his girlfriend had a C-section.”
That’s enough. You’ve been notified … And so has your company.
We often want employees to formally notify us of exactly what is wrong or exactly what they want so that we know exactly what to do … Sorry! Employees don’t have to sound the trumpets and say “I am notifying you of a serious health condition and wish to exercise my rights under the Family Medical Leave Act of 1992.” That’s not how it works.
Most times, notification sounds something like this …
- “My wife is in labor! I gotta go!”
- “My child is sick and I’m going to be out the rest of the week”
- “My dad is getting up there in age. I’ll need to take a few hours on Thursday to go with him to the doctor”
From that point, it is the responsibility of the manager to know these circumstances are likely going to be covered — and take action accordingly based on the federal and state laws as well as your company’s policy/procedure/practice on handling leave under the FMLA.
These same thresholds should follow for issues of harassment and discrimination and bullying in the workplace. We want and expect employees to make a grand announcement — but instead we get …
- “He looks at me funny”
- “If she calls me ‘pops’ or ‘old timer’ one more time, I’m going to scream!”
- “I really try not to talk to him. He’s so rude and mean”
Once again, you’ve been notified. From that point, it is the responsibility of the manager to ask more questions and monitor the situation — then take corrective action on anything which is improper.
Regardless of whether it is fair or unfair, managers are accountable under the law for this as the threshold for notification. HR has a duty to educate and train our managers accordingly so they are aware and know how to react and act in these situations. Otherwise, we are setting ourselves up for liability and failure.