Pension & Benefits News Employee with blood in urine failed to show he had serious health condition
Friday, August 7, 2020

Employee with blood in urine failed to show he had serious health condition

A trucking company was entitled to summary judgment on a former employee’s FMLA interference and retaliation claims because, despite telling his managers he had blood in his urine, he failed to show he suffered from a serious health condition where he never saw a urologist to diagnose him and did not submit certification of his condition from any doctor.

Doctors’ notes. The employee started working as a freight yard spotter for Lazer Spot in 2015. On February 29, 2016, which was his last day of work, he told his managers he had blood in urine "like before." The employee had a prostate issue and surgery in 2015. He asked his managers if he could work less hours until he could get checked out. On March 1, he saw a chiropractor who later testified he would not treat him because he was not a medical doctor but gave him a note stating he had seen the employee and that he should be off work until further notice. On March 11, he saw another doctor, who was not a urologist. The doctor told him to see a urologist and provided a note indicting the employee should to be off work until March 23.

FMLA documents requested. On March 15, one of the managers apparently sent the doctors’ notes to a representative in Lazer’s HR department. The representative sent an email to the employee’s managers asking if March 11 was the employee’s first day off. Because he had been out three days, HR would need to put him on leave. She stated he qualified for FMLA leave and would send him the FMLA documents for his medical provider to complete and return within 15 days of receipt.

On March 29, HR received another doctor’s note that the employee would need to be out until April 1. After the employee did not respond to HR’s requests for the FMLA paperwork and didn’t return to work on April 1, Lazar treated him as resigned pursuant to its no call, no show policy. The employee tried to return on April 4 but was turned away because he did not have releases without restrictions from all his doctors. He returned two weeks later with a release from one doctor, however, at that point, his position with the company had been terminated.

The employee filed a three-count complaint against Lazer, alleging FMLA violations, promissory estoppel, and retaliatory discharge. After Lazer removed the case to federal court, the employee dropped the retaliatory discharge count. Lazer filed this motion for summary judgment on the remaining counts.

No serious health condition. Addressing the employee’s FMLA interference claim, the court found there was no evidence he suffered from a serious health condition. Blood in the urine can signify a serious problem, but he never saw a urologist to diagnose his alleged condition. There was no evidence he ever tried to see a urologist. Further, he did not submit any certification of his condition from any doctor. He claimed he never received the FMLA documents from Lazer but the evidence showed they were mailed to his home and he admitted being told they were coming. He never inquired about the documents, and the doctors’ notes he did submit made no mention of his condition. Even if he had evidence that he had a serious health condition, the court found he failed to provide notice of his intent to take leave or that Lazer denied him leave to which he was entitled.

Failed to provide FMLA documents. The court also found there was no evidence Lazer retaliated against the employee for attempting to exercise his rights under the FMLA. Rather, Lazer intended to treat his absence as FMLA-required leave if only the employee had provided the necessary and required information. During the entire time he was off work, he failed to provide any evidence he would need to be hospitalized or that he needed ongoing treatment. His doctors’ notes simply requested that he be excused from work. Because nothing in the record suggested that Lazer ended his employment because he took or attempted to take FMLA leave, the court granted summary judgment to Lazer on the FMLA claims.

No detrimental reliance. Finally, the court found the employee’s evidence to support a promissory estoppel claim to be "woefully deficient." The alleged promise from an HR representative that he could submit doctors’ notes instead of the requisite FMLA paperwork was too vague to be relied on. Moreover, his alleged reliance did not cause him any detriment. Even assuming he was told all he needed were doctors’ notes, his last note excused him until April 4. He claimed he tried to return on that date but was told he needed full releases. Even assuming that to be true, he did not return again until April 18. His employment was not terminated because all he did was to provide doctors’ notes; he simply did not return to work when he was scheduled. Thus, the court also granted summary judgment to Lazer on the promissory estoppel claim.

SOURCE: Uccardi v. Lazer Spot, Inc., (N.D. Ill.), No. 18-CV-2424, July 3, 2020.

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