In Belerim v. Nelco, Inc., No. 3:05-CV-803-H, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40447 (W.D.Ky. June 4, 2007), the Court found that an employee's request for one-month's leave to go to Kosovo because "My mom, she is sick in the hospital" was sufficient notice that the leave might be FMLA qualifying to defeat the employer's motion for summary judgment.
Comment: The FMLA does not require an employee to ask for leave by name. Rather, the FMLA merely requires that an employee provide sufficient information when requesting leave to put the employer on notice that the leave might be FMLA-qualifying. Court's have generally found that an employee's request for leave because they or a covered family member is "sick" was insufficient notice that the leave might be FMLA-qualifying. Here, the combination of "sick" and "hospitalization" was found to be sufficient notice, at least to survive a summary judgment motion (in which all inferences are decided in favor of the non-moving party, in this case the employee).
Employers need to train those responsible for approving FMLA leave to listen very carefully to what the employee says to justify the need for leave. As demonstrated by the case, the sufficient notice standard is very modest.
The same standard of employee notice applies to all federal sector variants of the FMLA.