Potential Consequences of Submitting a Fake FMLA Approval Letter
Imagine you are an employee who has recently suffered from what you believe are severe injuries due to a car accident. You try to follow what you believe is the proper procedure and request leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) to try to take some time off to recover. However, your request is denied. You are unsure of what step to take next. You really think you deserve time off. So in a rush, you decide to falsify your own letter granting yourself leave under the FMLA to take time off and you submit this to your employer and take leave. However, a few days later, you get a call from the HR department at your job and you are notified that you have been fired for falsifying FMLA approval.
This scenario mirrors what happened to Randall Todd Chapman, an employee at a West Virginia branch of Verizon Communications Inc. Mr. Chapman’s case illustrates the dangers of trying to forge FMLA approval and discusses the consequences of falsification.
Facts of Chapman v. Verizon Communications, Inc.
Mr. Chapman was on his way to work on a Friday when he was in a car accident. The accident led to Mr. Chapman sustaining a bruised sternum, abrasions, back pain, and receiving twenty staples in his head for a large laceration. However, he later required no other medical treatment and recovered from his injuries after one month. Mr. Chapman’s wife attempted to apply for FMLA leave through Verizon’s Absence Reporting Center for the day Mr. Chapman missed work due to the accident. However, Verizon denied the claim after finding Mr. Chapman’s claim was not for a “serious health condition” as defined by the FMLA. Mr. Chapman attempted to appeal the decision but it was denied and Chapman was suspended based on the denial. Once Mr. Chapman returned to work following the suspension, he tried to give his manager a fake approval letter falsifying approval of his FMLA claim. The company launched an investigation about the fake letter and upon proving it was falsified, terminated Mr. Chapman from the company.
Analysis and Ruling by the Court
Mr. Chapman attempted to bring an action against Verizon for unlawful termination. However, the West Virginia trial court denied his claim and granted summary judgment in favor of Verizon. The court specifically found it was reasonable for Verizon to conclude based on the evidence presented that Mr. Chapman had falsified the letter and thus, had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for terminating him from the company. The analysis and ruling issued by this court help provide guidance to others in similar situations as to how courts may analyze employees facing similar situations.
Contact Our Experienced FMLA Attorneys Today
It can be frustrating if you are initially denied leave under the FMLA to recover from injuries. However, you should not resort to falsifying letters to your employer because that may ultimately put you at risk for getting fired. Instead, you should contact the experienced Clearwater employment law attorneys at Dilla Employment Law, P.A. to discuss your options and see whether there is an alternative way to modify your leave request or what other steps you could take to get the time off you believe you need. Contact us today for a free consultation.