United States: Massachusetts Federal Court Decision Highlights The Importance Of FMLA Training And Compliance

Navigating leave issues can be difficult: There are several statutes that provide employees with different, yet sometimes overlapping rights, and every situation is unique. Employers must ensure that members of management and those responsible for addressing leave situations are aware of the applicable legal requirements and trained on them.

A recent Massachusetts federal district court decision serves as a reminder of the importance of training managers, human resources professionals, and supervisors on the legal requirements of leave—and of how missteps in handling leave situations can expose employers to significant liability. In Boadi v. Center for Human Development, Inc., No. 14-cv-30162 (September 21, 2017) the court determined that an employer and a supervisor were liable for liquidated damages on an employee's interference claim under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), essentially doubling the employee's recovery. Employers should be aware of Boadi to avoid not only FMLA liability, but also heightened exposure under its liquidated damages provision.


Grace Boadi, an employee of the Center for Human Development, was unexpectedly hospitalized from April 15, 2013, to April 24, 2013. Though the Center had a call-in policy that required employees to provide personal notice of their absences, Boadi's health issues rendered her unable to communicate effectively, so she asked her son to notify the Center that she was hospitalized and unable to work. As a result, Boadi's son informed an on-call supervisor, his mother's direct supervisor, and his mother's second-level supervisor, Candy Pennington, of Boadi's absence and inability to work four times between April 15, 2013, and April 18, 2013. On April 18, Pennington told Boadi's son not to contact the Center again because it was "not acceptable for him" to report his mother's absences.

The next day, Pennington informed the Center's vice president of human resources, Carol Fitzgerald, that Boadi was hospitalized and unable to work. A few days later, Pennington notified Fitzgerald that Boadi had violated the Center's "no call/no show" policy by being absent from work on April 19, April 20, and April 21, without personally notifying the Center of her absences. Fitzgerald then drafted an employment termination letter to Boadi, which Pennington's supervisor, Jeffrey Trant, signed. Neither Pennington nor Fitzgerald told Trant that Boadi was hospitalized.

Boadi was released from the hospital on April 24. On April 25, her primary care physician faxed a certificate to the Center indicating that Boadi required a leave of absence from April 23, 2013, to May 23, 2013. Boadi then went to the Center's human resources department, where she filled out short-term disability and FMLA paperwork. Within a day or two of doing so, Boadi notified Pennington that she intended to return to work at the Center. However, on April 30, Pennington informed Boadi that Boadi had abandoned her job by failing to call the Center to report her absences. At some point during the first week of May, Boadi received the employment termination letter that Trant had signed.

The Court's Decision

After a jury found in Boadi's favor on her FMLA interference claim, the judge was tasked with deciding whether Boadi was entitled to liquidated damages. Under the FMLA, an employee who proves that her employer interfered with her FMLA rights is entitled to recover liquidated damages in an amount equal to her actual damages (which is usually lost wages and benefits plus interest), unless the employer shows that it engaged in the conduct that interfered with the employee's FMLA rights in "good faith" and that it had "reasonable grounds" for believing that such conduct was legal. The judge concluded that the Center and Pennington failed to establish either requirement.

Though the Center was aware that Boadi was ill and unable to personally notify the Center of her absences before it terminated her employment, none of the Center's employees who were aware of Boadi's hospitalization or involved in the termination decision "sought legal counsel or other advice on the FMLA's requirements before they terminated [Boadi]'s employment," such as whether Boadi was excused from complying with the Center's call-in policy or whether the notices that Boadi's son provided were sufficient under the FMLA. Indeed, Pennington, who made the decision to terminate Boadi's employment, had received little FMLA training and Trant, who had received more extensive FMLA training, never inquired as to Boadi's condition before signing the termination letter.

Furthermore, the Center failed to reconsider its decision to terminate Boadi's employment after she provided notice of her unforeseeable period of leave "as soon as practicable," as the FMLA's implementing regulations require. Notably, even though Boadi's physician provided the Center with a certificate regarding her need for a leave of absence and Boadi informed Pennington that she intended to return to work, nobody from the Center ever asked Boadi why she did not personally notify the Center of her absences.

Key Takeaways

Boadi provides employers with useful guidance on complying with the FMLA and reducing the risk that they will face liability for liquidated damages.

First, employers should train supervisors on the FMLA and their internal policies and practices concerning leave. As the Boadi decision shows, the failure to ensure that supervisors are aware of the FMLA's requirements is a factor that courts consider when assessing whether an employer is liable for liquidated damages.

Second, human resources professionals and higher-level supervisors should consider the circumstances concerning an employee's absence from work before approving an employment decision based on absenteeism with respect to that employee.

Third, an employer may want to reconsider employment decisions that it made based on an employee's failure to comply with a call-in policy when the employee later informs the employer that she was unable to comply with that policy because of medical reasons.

Finally, human resources professionals and supervisors should be encouraged to seek guidance from employees who have greater expertise in dealing with leave issues, such as leave coordinators, senior human resources professionals, or the company's legal team.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions