BARKETT, Circuit Judge:
Queen Ester Gay appeals from the district court's order granting defendant Gilman Paper Company's ("Gilman") motion for summary judgment as to her claims under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA").
Appellant, Queen Ester Gay, was employed by the Gilman Paper Company from 1988 until her termination on June 28, 1994.
Gay made no further effort to communicate with Gilman regarding her condition or
Gay subsequently filed suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, alleging that she had been improperly denied leave for a serious health condition under the FMLA and wrongfully terminated for exercising her rights under the FMLA.
We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo, applying the same legal standards that bound the district court, and viewing all facts and any reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Hale v. Tallapoosa County, 50 F.3d 1579, 1581 (11th Cir.1995); McGuire Oil Co. v. Mapco, Inc., 958 F.2d 1552, 1557 (11th Cir.1992). Summary judgment is appropriate only when "there is no genuine issue of material fact and ... the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).
The FMLA provides eligible employees with "a total of 12 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period ... [b]ecause of a serious health condition
29 C.F.R. § 825.303(a) (1993). The interim regulations further provide that the required notice may be given by telephone and that
29 C.F.R. § 825.303(b) (1993). Additional FMLA implementing regulations provide that "[i]n all circumstances, it is the employer's responsibility to designate leave, paid or unpaid, as FMLA-qualifying, based on information provided by the employee." 29 C.F.R. § 825.208(a)(2) (1993).
Gay argues that her husband's assertion that she was in the hospital for tests was sufficient to put Gilman on notice that her condition was potentially FMLA-qualifying, thus shifting the burden to Gilman to make further inquiry as to whether her absence in fact qualified for treatment under the FMLA. She also suggests that it was then
In support, Gay relies primarily on two cases, which we find inapposite to Gay's situation and which, indeed, support the opposite result. First, Gay directs us to Brannon v. OshKosh B'Gosh, Inc., 897 F.Supp. 1028 (M.D.Tenn.1995). In that case, the plaintiff had stayed home from work for two days to care for her three-year-old daughter, who was suffering from a serious health condition within the meaning of the FMLA.
In Manuel v. Westlake Polymers Corp., 66 F.3d 758 (5th Cir.1995), the appellant, who had been disciplined repeatedly by her employer for poor attendance, was absent from work for over a month due to complications that developed following what was anticipated to be minor surgery on her toe, see id. at 760. The appellant had received permission to be absent from work on the day of the surgery and, when complications subsequently developed, she immediately notified her supervisor that she could not return to work due to these complications. She kept in constant contact with her employer throughout her absence, though she neither referred to nor attempted to refer to the FMLA when requesting leave. See id. Reversing the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer, the Fifth Circuit held that an eligible employee may avail herself of the FMLA's protection without expressly invoking the statute when notifying her employer of her need for leave occasioned by a serious health condition. See id. at 764. Although the court specifically declined to announce any "categorical rules" concerning the content of an employee's adequate notice beyond holding that the employee need not specifically mention the FMLA, the court suggested that, in determining whether an employee's notice was sufficient, "[t]he critical question is whether the information imparted to the employer is sufficient to reasonably apprise it of the employee's request to take time off for a serious health condition." Id.
Consistent with the cases Gay cites is Price v. City of Fort Wayne, 117 F.3d 1022 (7th Cir.1997), in which the appellant had sought leave from work due to an assemblage of medical problems, no one of which alone rose to the level of a serious health condition, see id. at 1024-25. In requesting leave, the appellant had filled out the form provided by her employer, indicating that the reason for her request was medical need, and had attached a note from her doctor, from whom she had sought treatment for her various health problems eight times in a two month period preceding her request, requiring her to take time off. See id. at 1025. Observing that the notice required by the FMLA is given "when the employee requests leave for a covered reason," the court found that, under the circumstances, the appellant had provided her employer with "sufficient information to put [the employer] on notice
In each of these cases the employee adequately conveyed to the employer sufficient information to put the employer on notice that her absence was potentially FMLA-qualifying. Conversely, in this case, not only was there a dearth of information provided, but the information that was provided was false. Gay's husband informed her supervisor that Gay was having some tests run on the first day of her absence from work. When questioned by Gay's supervisor about his wife's condition, Gay's husband deliberately withheld information concerning the true nature of her condition and instructed his sons to do the same. Under these circumstances, the burden to request further information never shifted to Gilman because Gilman could not reasonably be expected to conclude that Gay's absence might have qualified for treatment under the FMLA.
The FMLA's notice requirements serve to assist employers in accommodating their employees' absences for certain medical or family reasons. See Manuel, 66 F.3d at 762. Of course, unforseen medical emergencies may make advance notice impossible, and in that case, no rights under the FMLA would be lost. At the same time, an employer is entitled to expect that the employee will be cognizant of her own job responsibilities as well as the operations of the employer and will give notice as soon as practicable. When notice of a possible serious medical condition is deliberately withheld and false information is given, it cannot be said that an employee has been terminated in violation of the FMLA.
We agree with the decisions cited above that, where an employee's need for FMLA leave is unforeseeable, the employee need only provide her employer with notice sufficient to make the employer aware that her absence is due to a potentially FMLA-qualifying reason. However, we cannot agree that, under the circumstances presented here, Gay provided Gilman with that kind of notice.