348 F.3d 73 (4th Cir. 2003), 02-1791, Babcock v. Bellsouth Advertising And Publishing Corp.

Docket Nº:02-1791
Citation:348 F.3d 73
Party Name:Babcock v. Bellsouth Advertising And Publishing Corp.
Case Date:October 28, 2003
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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348 F.3d 73 (4th Cir. 2003)

Kimberly BABCOCK, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

BELLSOUTH ADVERTISING AND PUBLISHING CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 02-1791.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

October 28, 2003

Argued: May 8, 2003.

Page 74

ARGUED:

Steven T. Breaux, BELLSOUTH CORPORATION, Atlanta, Georgia, for Appellant.

Palmer Freeman, Jr., Columbia, South Carolina; Richard Donald Ries, Columbia, South Carolina, for Appellee.

Before WILKINS, Chief Judge, and GREGORY and SHEDD, Circuit Judges.

Affirmed by published opinion. Judge SHEDD wrote the opinion, in which Chief Judge WILKINS and Judge GREGORY joined.

OPINION

SHEDD, Circuit Judge:

Kimberly Babcock sued her former employer, BellSouth Advertising and Publishing Company ("BellSouth"), for terminating her employment in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601-54. A jury returned a verdict in Babcock's favor and awarded her more than $91,000 in damages. Bell-South appeals from the judgment entered on the jury's verdict, arguing that Babcock was not eligible for FMLA protection as a matter of law. Because the jury could reasonably conclude that Babcock was an

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"eligible employee" under the FMLA and that she otherwise satisfied the requirements for protection under that statute, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I.

Beginning on June 1, 1999, Babcock worked for BellSouth as an outside sales representative selling yellow pages advertisements. 1 In April 2000, Babcock began experiencing various health problems, including headaches, dizziness, sinus trouble, exhaustion, and depression. In mid-May, Babcock's physician reported that an earlier physical examination showed early stages of cancer. In light of these medical problems, Babcock's physician suggested that she take some time off from work.

After attempting--unsuccessfully--to resume her normal duties at the office, Babcock finally decided on May 18 that she would heed her physician's advice and take time off from work. Babcock con-sulted with a union representative and then went to her supervisor, who promptly called Polly Hall, a benefits case manager at BellSouth in Atlanta. Babcock told Hall that she was ill and needed to go on short-term disability leave. Hall instructed Babcock to have her physician complete the required paperwork and fax it back to Hall in Atlanta. Babcock left work later in the day on May 18.

On May 22, Babcock called her supervisor to let her know that her physician was recommending six weeks of leave from work. Four days later, Hall called Babcock to inquire about the status of the paperwork that BellSouth needed from her physician; Babcock reported that her physician had the form and would be faxing it to Hall any time. Babcock's physician certified on May 30 that he had diagnosed Babcock with depression, irritable bowel syndrome, and headaches. He further stated that Babcock would be able to return to work in six weeks. Thinking that she had been approved for six weeks of leave, Babcock left town on May 30 and did not return home until June 9.

When she returned home, Babcock found letters from Hall dated June 2 and June 7. These letters indicated that (1) BellSouth would only approve short-term disability leave through May 27 based on the information provided by Babcock's physician; (2) Babcock should return to work no later than June 9; and (3) if Babcock did not return to work by that date, she could be subject to discipline, including termination.

Babcock called Hall on June 9 to discuss her situation...

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