Extreme Reaction to
Encounter with Dog
Enough for FMLA Notice
More than one way to
meet legal requirement
The Seventh Circuit reminded employers that, failing actual notice from a worker of the need for FMLA leave, "clear abnormalities" in an employee's behavior can represent constructive notice under the FMLA, triggering the duty to inquire and investigate the need for leave. Beverly Stevenson v. Hyre Electric, __F3rd__, No. 06-3501 (7th Cir. October 2007).
Stevenson apparently encountered a dog in the warehouse and became extremely agitated, spraying deodorizer in her work station and screaming and cursing about dogs in the workplace. She disappeared for two days then returned, then burst into the president's office and screamed about keeping dogs out of the company's facility that threatened her. Stevenson wound up in a emergency room where she was diagnosed with acute anxiety, and she then called in sick.
The court found that a jury could find that this was sufficient evidence that she required time off for a serious health condition.
The key to this case is that the court found no employee is required to show a) abnormalities in behavior and b) the concurrent inability to communicate the need for leave. Stevenson could show a) alone, and this was sufficient under the FMLA regulations.