An employee is on leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Does that mean an employer cannot communicate with him or her?

Eric B. Meyer in The Employer Handbook provides the answer straight from the mouth of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Meyer says employee Helene O’Donnell’s position with Passport Health Communications was being eliminated. So the company offered her something else.

To secure the spot, she had to sign a noncompetition agreement. But before the signing deadline, Meyer says, she requested FMLA leave because of panic attacks. While away, the company contacted her to remind her about the agreement. But the deadline passed and she never signed, so Meyer says she was fired.

O’Donnell then sued for FMLA interference and she lost. Meyer says the court concluded she had been asked to sign the agreement before taking leave, stating “there is no right in the FMLA to be left alone,” and be completely absolved of responding to the employer’s discrete inquiries.

In fact, Meyer says, companies should communicate with those on leave, especially where the employee has a serious health condition that could also be construed as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. They may need to discuss reasonable accommodations, he says.