Employment-Third Circuit Holds That Employer Violated The FMLA Because It Did Not Give The Employee The Opportunity To Cure Deficiencies In Her Request For FMLA Leave

In Hansler v. Lehigh Valley Hospital Network, 14-1772 (3rd Cir. 2015), Deborah Hansler (“Hansler”) had requested intermittent leave from her former employer, Lehigh Valley Health Network (“Lehigh Valley”), under the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (the “FMLA”). Specifically, Hansler had submitted a medical certification requesting leave for two days a week for approximately one month. As alleged in the complaint, the medical certification refers to the length of her requested leave but not the nature or duration of her condition. A few weeks later, after she took several days off work, Lehigh Valley terminated Hansler’s employment without seeking any clarification about her medical certification, as required by law. Lehigh Valley cited excessive absences and informed her that the request for leave had been denied. Hansler sued Lehigh Valley for violations of the FMLA, but the district court dismissed the complaint on the basis that the medical certification supporting Hansler’s request for leave was “invalid.”

After reviewing the case, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals (the “Court”) concluded that, in failing to afford Hansler a chance to cure any deficiencies in her medical certification, Lehigh Valley violated the FMLA. The Court said that when, as here, a medical certification submitted by an employee is “vague, ambiguous, or nonresponsive,” the employer must, under 29 C.F.R. § 825.305(c), provide the employee an opportunity to cure the deficiency within seven days. Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court’s dismissal of the case, and remanded the case for further proceedings.