Submitted by: Michael Melder
The above subtitle came from an article I recently read. If you would like to read it, click here.
If you don’t want to read it, here is a short summary: The employer in the article got tired of employees using intermittent FMLA to extend their weekends. A few employees were taking FMLA leave on Mondays and Fridays. The employer believed the employees were abusing their leave.
For you employers who haven’t experienced this yet, employees may take family medical leave in small chunks. For employers having to administer FMLA, abuse of intermittent leave can cause many headaches. One common problem is trying to stop an employee who is intentionally using family medical leave to take three day weekends. This employer was just trying to stop the practice of some employees using intermittent leave to do just that, take extended weekends.
I highlight the article because it spotlights an important issue – how does an employer deal with an employee abusing family medical leave? The employer in the article resorted to requiring the employee to get a doctor’s note for each leave request. If you are considering that option, don’t. It might lead you to the courthouse steps.
So what is an employer to do?
Before I answer the question, let me digress and quote some law, “The employee and employer shall attempt to work out a schedule for such leave that meets the employee’s needs without unduly disrupting the employer’s operations, subject to the approval of the health care provider.”
The quote should be empowering! The FMLA actually requires the employee to work with the employer to work out a schedule that doesn’t disrupt the employer’s operations. If an employer suspects abuse, such as an employee who seems to take too many Mondays and Fridays off under the guise of FMLA, take control.
How? Low hanging fruit, but consider these:
1. Require the employee to provide dates when leave is to be expected, if possible.
2. Push back when leave does disrupt operations.
3. Provide alternate days or times that fit with operations.
4. If you consider it abuse, address it.
What would that look like? Well, circling back to the article. If an employee is taking too many Mondays and Fridays off, have the employee reschedule that leave to a Monday afternoon or a Friday morning, or a Tuesday or Thursday.
The employer has every right to require the employee to take leave that works with the employer’s schedule. It is a collaborative process. Like any legal issue, it isn’t black and white. But, if you suspect abuse, exercise your right to require the employee to work out a schedule that doesn’t disrupt operations.
A note from our President, Bronwyn Allen: Some of you had an opportunity to meet Michael Melder of MelderLaw, PLLC, during a recent roundtable discussion we hosted. Michael spoke on the topic of background checks. He is an employment attorney with over 15 years of experience representing businesses in the highly regulated area of HR law. Following the roundtable discussion, he received high marks from our audience.
Our clients often ask us questions better suited for a lawyer. Michael has agreed to be our sounding board. He won’t be providing legal counsel, unless you wish to engage him; however, if you have a general HR legal question and would like to affirm or verify the answer Michael is open to helping you get the answer! To learn more, click here.