Food packaging giant Cryovac, Inc. recently defeated a former employee’s FMLA interference claim because he failed to immediately report his workplace injury in violation of company policy. Cryovac employed William Spring as a bag sealer. On November 26, 2008, Spring injured his back at work. On November 30, he informed his supervisor that he had injured his back. However, Spring did not tell his supervisor that the injury occurred at work. On December 3, Spring informed Cryovac’s Human Resources department that he would return to work the following day. Human Resources informed Spring that he would need to designate the days that he missed work as FMLA leave and get a note from his doctor.
Spring’s doctor faxed a note to Cryovac indicating that Spring’s injury was work-related. The Company’s work-related injury policy required employees to report “all injuries no matter how minor.” After investigating the matter, Cryovac determined that Spring had not reported his injury as work-related and subsequently suspended him for failing to report his workplace injury in a timely manner. Cryovac later discharged Spring based on his history of safety violations and disciplinary infractions.
In September of 2010, Spring filed a lawsuit alleging, among other claims, that Cryovac had interfered with his FMLA rights and retaliated against him for taking FMLA leave. The Company filed a motion to dismiss Spring’s FMLA claims, and the Court granted Cryovac’s motion. Spring appealed.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision. The Court found that Spring did not have a valid FMLA interference claim because Cryovac never denied him FMLA leave and his termination “had nothing to do with taking FMLA leave.”
This case demonstrates that employers can adopt policies that require employees to report all workplace accidents “immediately” and a company can discipline an employee who violates such a policy, even if the employee requested FMLA leave.