In Sconfienza v. Verizon Pennsylvania, Inc., No. 07-2498, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 24740 (3d Cir. Dec. 5, 2005), company policy required an employee to submit a personal certification attesting that each absence was related to a previously approved need for intermittent FMLA leave. In so doing, the employee gained FMLA protections for absences that were personally certified. An employee who failed to submit such personal certification could be cited with a chargeable absence for purposes of discipline, even if the absence was, in fact, for the same FMLA-covered condition.
Sconfienza was pre-approved for intermittent FMLA leave due to migraines. She failed, however, to submit personal certifications for a number of absences, which resulted in her receiving discipline. Sconfienza sued, alleging that the discipline violated her FMLA rights. She sought to excuse her failure to submit personal certifications for the cited absences based on Verizon's failure to send the certification forms to the appropriate address. Verizon countered that, under company policy, Sconfienza was required to change her official address of record, and that she had repeatedly refused to do so.
The burden was on Sconfienza, the Third Circuit found, to ensure that she complied with Verizon's known personal certification leave procedures. Because she did not file the appropriate personal certifications, she was not entitled to FMLA leave.
Comment: To gain FMLA protections an employee must comply with their employer's known usual and customary leave reporting requirements. An employee who refuses to abide by those requirements, perhaps out of frustration, may inadvertently deprive themselves of FMLA protections. All employees might consider heeding a bit of wisdom from the collective bargaining world: obey now, grieve later.