The scenario happens quite frequently. An employee needs some time off outside of the parameters of traditional paid time off. With a heart of generosity, the company allows the employee to take as much time as they need, except it reaches a certain point that now, the company desperately needs to fill the slot of the employee on leave.
And so, they unfortunately decide to terminate. When pressed with regard to the offer of FMLA, the employer retorts that it was never offered, because the employee never asked.
FMLA, or the Family Medical Leave Act, entitles eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job and benefits protected leave. Where employers can get into hot water is assuming that in order to provide FMLA to an eligible employee, that the employee needs to say the words FMLA.
This is not the case. The burden of responsibility is on the employer to initiate the FMLA process. If they can reasonably assume that an employee will need time off beyond that of a typical sick leave, it is always appropriate to send the Notice of Rights and Responsibilities to the employee. Then, investigate the process further, if necessary.