Jeremy Crown was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes in August 2006. Nissan, his employer, granted his request for 10 days of FMLA leave to cover the absence that led to the diagnosis. In October 2007, Crown was absent from work for three consecutive days. Crown claimed that the absences were related to his Diabetes. Pursuant to Nissan policy, he submitted a medical certification substantiating his request for FMLA leave to cover the absence. The health care provider who filled out the certification checked the box for an absence of more than three consecutive days. The health care provider did not check the box for a chronic condition. Nissan denied the request for FMLA leave because Crown was not incapacitated for more than three consecutive calendar days. Nissan also assessed Crown with 4 points for unexcused and excused absences. The four points put him over the company's attendance policy limit. Crown was terminated.
Crown sued alleging that his termination violated the FMLA. Crown argued that, notwithstanding the failure of the medical certification to substantiate his request for FMLA leave, Nissan should have granted him FMLA leave anyway. Crown reasoned that Nissan knew he had an FMLA-covered condition (Diabetes) since August 2006. It knew that the condition would continue for an indefinite period. As such, Nissan, Crown argued, should have known that this three-day absence in October 2007 resulted from a period of incapacity due to his chronic serious health condition because it was aware that he had this condition and was likewise aware that the condition had previously necessitated leave. Crown contended that he should not be penalized because of the lack of competence or familiarity of the health care provider who filled out the certification. The court disagreed.
The court rejected as without merit the argument that Nissan should have known that that his absences were related to his chronic condition despite the health care providers failure to so indicate simply because it knew he had been earlier diagnosed with a chronic condition. The court observed:
The court went on to observe that "[t]he FMLA does not require an employer to be 'clairvoyant.'" If an employee fails to provide its employer with the required notice, the employer can deny leave even if the employee has a serious health condition.
The court awarded summary judgment to Nissan.
Crown v. Nissan North American, Inc., No. 3:08CV418TSL-JCS, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47633 (S.D. Miss. June 8, 2009).
To ensure FMLA coverage where an employee or covered family member has
a previously established qualifying reason for FMLA leave, it is
incumbent on the employee to link the present need for leave with the
known qualifying reason. Courts will not assume such a connection,
particular where, as in Crown, the connection is not substantiated in a
supporting medical certification.
The DOL codified the linkage requirement in 29 CFR 825.303(b) of the modified regulations.
The case also teaches employees that they should review the medical certification before handing it in to ensure that it supports the request for leave. If it does not, or if the employee has any questions regarding the information on the form, the employee should take the matter up with the health care provider before submitting the documentation. The health care provider should make any corrections on the certification form. The employee should NOT modify the certification form.
The MSPB has applied Title I (DOL) employee notice requirements to Title II (OPM) FMLA requirements.