Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Recent News
Home / Opinions / 06-1013 Burnett v. LFW, Inc.

06-1013 Burnett v. LFW, Inc.

Where an employee informed his employer that he needed a biopsy and made several other related health complaints, the employer was on notice that he may need medical leave covered by the FMLA.

“[W]hen considered in their proper context, Burnett’s remarks on January 29 were sufficient to put Habitat on notice of his need for medical leave. Over a period of four months, Burnett communicated that: (1) he was suffering from ‘a weak bladder,’ which was severe enough to preclude a potential transfer of assignment; (2) he was on a trajectory of increased medical visits and testing, including a blood test showing an elevated PSA; (3) he had recently had a prostate biopsy (a test that Polo knew was used to diagnose cancer) and requested help in his work duties as a result; (4) he repeatedly stated that he ‘felt sick’ and intimated that his condition may be similar to his brother-in- law’s latent prostate cancer; and (5) his concerns were significant enough for him to suggest that he might commit suicide if he ended up bedridden as a result of prostate cancer. Burnett therefore gave an account of symptoms and complaints, which formed a coherent pattern and progression, beginning with initial symptoms, continuing with doctor’s visits, and then additional testing and results—all communicated (in one form or another) to Polo.

“[W]e do not believe we place an unreasonable burden on Habitat in asking it to consider Burnett’s disclosed medical history in assessing the seriousness of his assertion of sickness on January 29. Burnett is not seeking to reach back over vast periods of time to grasp at an isolated mention of illness that was reasonably banished from his employer’s institutional memory. He seeks only to invoke Habitat’s institutional memory as to the natural course of his illness, which spanned a period of only four months (and included the same supervisor throughout the entire relevant period). And, importantly, Habitat cannot claim a loss of memory here. Polo approved Burnett’s requests for days off for doctor’s appointments little more than a month before his termination. Just days before his termination, Burnett discussed his upcoming biopsy with Polo and others at the union grievance meeting. Finally, during his January 29 run-in with Burnett at the time clock, Polo himself made reference to the overall context of Burnett’s health, stating that Burnett’s post-biopsy treatment plan ‘didn’t matter.’”

Affirmed in part, and Reversed in part.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Kocoras, J., Williams, J.

Leave a Reply