Absent a known prior medical history, an employee's complaints to his HR manager that he felt "stressed out" and did not know what to do, failed to reasonably apprise his employer that he needed time off for a serious health condition within the meaning of the FMLA. The court observed
Indeed, "feeling stressed out"' is common to the workplace and hardly puts an employer on notice of a "qualifying condition" under the FMLA.
Comment: To perfect the right to take FMLA leave an eligible employee must impart sufficient information, through words, conduct, or both, to reasonably apprise the employer that the leave may be needed for an FMLA-covered condition. In providing notice, the employee need not invoke the FMLA by name or use any "magic words." The critical test for substantively-sufficient notice is whether the information that the employee conveyed to the employer was reasonably adequate to apprise the employer of the employee's request to take leave for a serious health condition that rendered him unable to perform his job. If an employee provides enough information about a qualifying condition, the burden of inquiry shifts to the employer to seek further details to confirm that the leave may be covered by the FMLA.
In Lackman v. Recovery Services of New Jersey, Inc., No. 06-2016 (RMB), 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11085 (D.N.J. Feb. 13, 2008), the employee's statement that he felt "stressed out" was so deficient that the court did not shift the burden of inquiry to the employer. Courts have similarly found that employee requests for leave because they felt "sick" or "didn't feel well" failed to provide adequate notice that the leave may be covered by the protections of the FMLA.
The MSPB has applied decisions interpreting Title I of the FMLA (like Lackman) to civil service employee's covered by Title II of the FMLA.