Termination Of Employee On FMLA Leave Who Submitted Inadequate Medical Information Did Not Violate Federal Law

Lewis v. United States, 641 F.3d 1174 (9th Cir. 2011)

Janet Lewis worked for the United States Air Force as the director of a child development center on the Elmendorf Air Force Base. In 2006, Lewis requested 120 days of leave without pay pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). The employer requested a medical certification to support Lewis’s request for FMLA leave. In response, Lewis submitted three documents: (1) a prescription from her psychiatrist; (2) a letter from her psychiatrist; and (3) a WH-380 (medical leave form). Although Lewis’s supervisor told her the documents she had submitted were insufficient to support her request for FMLA leave, Lewis refused to submit more information. The employer converted Lewis’s status to absent without leave (“AWOL”) and subsequently terminated her employment. Lewis sued for unlawful removal from employment pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 7702. The district court granted summary judgment to the employer, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that because Lewis’s WH-380 form stated only that she was diagnosed with “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and needed therapy, medical treatment, bed rest, two prescription medications, and 120 days off work,” she had failed to provide a “summary of the medical facts that support the diagnosis.” The Court noted that “the form contains no explanation as to why Lewis was unable to perform her work duties and no discussion about whether additional treatments would be required for her condition. When Lewis refused to submit any further documentation, her medical certification remained deficient.” See also Davis v. Superior Court, 196 Cal. App. 4th 669 (2011) (granting petition for writ of mandate directing trial court to enter its final judgment so that employee could file a notice of appeal).

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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