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Abused Ohio woman is later denied Family Medical Leave Act benefits and fired

Debra Kinds sued Ohio Bell Telephone after she was terminated from employment.  Kinds was involved in a mentally and physically abusive relationship that culminated in death threats and an assault that sent her to a local E.R. on August 30, 2009.  She reported what happened to her supervisor and sought time off to recover and to find a new place to live. Since she was not yet eligible for FMLA time off, she was given only a discretionary leave of one week. Kinds returned to work and when she had accumulated enough hours to be eligible for FMLA in October, she sought formal FMLA leave.  With her employer, FMLA leave initiated an automatic Short Term Disability (STD) application.

Kinds sought mental health services from a licensed social worker, seeing her for the first time on November 3.  The MSW diagnosed a "severe depression episode" and recommended further counseling.  During the month, KInds returned to her and also saw her family doctor. The STD request was approved for the period "November 10 through December 14" but denied for the period "October 20 thorugh November 9." Her employer then demanded an FMLA medical certification for the unapproved period.  The deadline for submitting the medical proof was extended from January 13 to January 27. 

Kinds and her providers did not submit any proof of disability to the employer.  Instead, the doctor submitted his form to the STD administrator. The latter cited HIPAA restrictions for failing to forward it to the employer, and Kinds' request for the three undocumented weeks of FMLA was denied.  She was given 15 days to document "extenuating circumstances" and her doctor submitted her medical certification form on February 16, however, the company maintained its denial of FMLA because Kinds and her doctor failed to provide adequate justification for not producing the FMLA4 form on a timely basis. 

KInds was then terminated for her unexcused absences from October 20 to November 9.  The Sixth Circuit upheld the dismissal of her wrongful termination claim, deeming the above process fair and reasonable.

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