Confusion over employee quitting lands employer in court


A little communication could have averted the claim

One of the reasons courts exist is because there are at least two sides to every story, and this case is no different. Good, timely documentation and clear communication with the employee, however, might have kept this employer out of court.


According to the employer's version, in a May 16 meeting, Tania became hostile, began yelling at a company leader, quit, and stormed out of the office. The employer entered the incident into its system on May 24. When Tania eventually filed suit, however, she never mentioned this meeting in which she allegedly quit.

In fact, in her mind, Tania hadn't quit. Despite the May 16 event being accounted for, on May 28, she met with her supervisor, David, and the company's HR Manager to discuss FMLA leave. David verbally approved Tania's request for a three-month medical leave on that day. In court, though, the employer wasn't clear whether this meeting took place, which opened the door for issues with their defense.

Confusion led to disputes in court

When the situation escalated and the parties ended up in court, both the employer and employee had a dispute over the following:

  • Whether the May 16 initial meeting occurred,
  • Whether the May 28 FMLA meeting occurred, and
  • Whether Tania quit her job before taking FMLA leave.

To further complicate the issue, the following occurred:

  • The employer accepted Tania's FMLA certification on May 30, which she delivered by hand.
  • On August 19, Tania emailed the HR Manager, saying "I'll be returning to work this Wednesday." The HR Manager responded the next day, indicating that "David is working on a plan to transition you back to work. We will be calling you within the next day or two with the plan."

The employer tried to have the case thrown out, but all the miscommunication resulted in the court allowing the case to continue. The court indicated that, if Tania quit her job on May 16, she would not have FMLA protections.

By emailing the HR Manager to say that she would be returning to work, it appears that at the very least, Tania did not believe she had quit. Because her employment relationship with the company was a genuine issue of material fact, the court allowed the case to proceed.

Moncion v. Flat Rate Movers, Ltd., Southern District of New York, No. 21-CV-02865, March 16, 2023.

Key to Remember: Failing to timely document and communicate about employee relations issues is often the crux of employer woes. Good, thorough documentation — especially right after a volatile event — helps employers provide key details should they end up in front of a judge. Communicating with an employee (or former employee) as a follow up to the event further supports an employer's position.

This article was written by Darlene M. Clabault, SHRM-CP, PHR, CLMS, of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. The content of these news items, in whole or in part, MAY NOT be copied into any other uses without consulting the originator of the content.


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