Take It From Boomer: FMLA Interference Is Easy
Former NFL Quarterback Boomer Esiason (did you know his real name is Norman Julius Esiason?) was recently criticized for comments he made relating to taking time off for the birth of a child. His comments were specifically aimed at New York Mets’ second baseman Daniel Murphy, who missed two games, including Opening Day, for the birth of Murphy’s child. Under MLB rules, a player can miss up to three games for paternity leave.
If you want to watch/listen for yourself, here’s a video of what happened. For those who want to save the bandwidth and take our word for it, Boomer stated that if he was Murphy, “I would have said, ‘C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day. I’m sorry; this is what makes our money. This is how we’re going to live our life. This is going to give my child every opportunity to be a success in life. I’ll be able to afford any college I want to send my kind to, because I’m a baseball player.” Ah, the sounds of sensitivity. If ever made in the workplace: ah, the sounds of a potential Family and Medical Leave Act interference claim.
An FMLA interference claim is what it sounds like – an employer (usually the supervisor or other management employee who receives the FMLA request) does something or takes some action to interfere with an employee’s right to use FMLA leave for, in this instance, the birth of a child. All it takes is statements like those made by Boomer to get an employer in hot water, particularly if those comments are followed-up by another action, such as not approving the leave. As Boomer proves, it’s that easy.
For this reason, workplace training is incredibly important. As Wisconsin FMLA attorneys, we want you to know that regardless of their personal views, supervisors and other management employees need to understand that it is not their role to judge an FMLA request. Although there are times that perhaps a request is not for FMLA-qualifying reasons or more information is necessary to make a determination on whether a request should be granted, there is no room for slip-ups or judgmental statements. Those only open the door to legal claims that are otherwise completely preventable.