Employment-Sixth Circuit Rules That Employee Who Voluntarily Leaves Employment Does Not Have An FMLA Claim

In Miles v. Nashville Electric Service, No. 12-6028 (6th Cir. 2013) (Unpublished Opinion), plaintiff Miles was alleging that her former employer, defendant Nashville Electric Service (“NES”), interfered with her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) in connection with Miles’s resignation from NES in May 2011.

In this case, Miles suffered a psychotic break in April 2011 for which she was hospitalized, and for which she took medical leave under the FMLA. The day after returning to NES from her medical leave, Miles informed her supervisor that she would not be coming back to work, and she submitted a resignation letter. Although Miles sought to rescind her resignation three days later, NES refused to reinstate her. Miles then brought this action, contending that her resignation was coerced and that NES did not fulfill its duty under the FMLA to determine whether Miles was requesting further medical leave following her return to work. The district court granted summary judgment to NES, finding that the evidence demonstrated that Miles voluntarily quit her job, and that NES had no duty under the FMLA to second-guess her decision to resign. Miles appeals the decision.

In analyzing the case, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (the “Court”) noted that to invoke the protection of the FMLA, an employee must provide notice and a qualifying reason for requesting FMLA leave. Nothing in the statute places a duty on an employer to affirmatively grant FMLA leave in the absence of this notice. In this case, all of the evidence indicates that Miles communicated to NES that she wanted to resign, not take medical leave, and that she made this decision voluntarily, without any coercion. Accordingly, NES did not have a duty to inquire as to whether Miles was requesting leave for a potentially FMLA-qualifying reason. Thus, NES did not violate any of its duties under the FMLA. As such, the Court concluded that the district court was correct in granting summary judgment to NES, and it affirmed the decision.