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Employee's failure to comply with clerical requirements under FMLA disqualifies him from ERISA benefits

Mark Farhner sued UTU Discipline Income Protection Plan after he was discharged by his employer, the Kansas City Southern Railway.  He had advised his supervisor that he needed to take several months off, due to "some personal things going on."  The supervisor advised the Human Resources Department of Farhner's request and was told that he must supply a note from his doctor confirming the date of treatment, diagnosis, treatment plan, prognosis and a potential return date.  In the interim, Farhner was charged paid vacation time.

Farhner was advised of the requirements but failed to provide the documentation.  A hearing was scheduled and Farhner's employment was terminated for "insubordination."  When he filed for discharge benefits, the ERISA plan held that he was not eligible, as he was discharged for insubordination, rather than because of disability.  He appealed this decision administratively and then to the Sixth Circuit.  On appeal the Court held that since the plan independently determined that Farhner was discharged for insubordination, its decision to deny benefits was not "arbitrary and capricious" and therefore it would be upheld---regardless of whether the employer  was acting in accordance with Farnher's legal rights under FMLA.
Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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