Blog Post


To prove illegal retaliation, the employee must show that the retaliator knew that the employee’s absence was due to FMLA, rather than another possible reason

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who takes protected time off under the Act.  However, it is imperative that the employee is able to show that the retaliator actually knew the employee was on FMLA leave, versus some other kind of leave. In Chase v. U.S.P.S., the evidence showed that the manager knew the employee was out on leave, but the manager had no idea if it was designated FMLA, or workers compensation related, or some other reason.  The employee unsuccessfully argued that the employer was liable because there was “institutional knowledge” by others within the company about the FMLA leave.  A federal judge in Boston disagreed. The judge ruled that the FMLA does not impose liability on employers who demonstrate their belief, however mistaken, that the FMLA was not invoked.

The lesson here for employees: Make sure your managers know that you are taking time off under the FMLA so you receive proper protection from retaliation. Do not assume that just because you notified Human Resources, or some other department, that your boss knows your time off is related to the FMLA.

Pamela A. Smith
Law Office of Pamela A. Smith
233 Needham Street, Suite 540
Newton, MA 02464


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